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Simply GRAND

- January 22, 2010

As one of the investigators with GRAND, Elaine Toms will work with researchers across the country. (Nick Pearce Photo)

Ten years ago, things like Facebook (est. 2004) Twitter (est. 2006), YouTube (est. 2005) didn’t even exist… and yet they’ve dramatically changed the way we communicate. What are the new technologies just over the horizon of this new decade and how can we use them to improve education and skills development?

How can we build new technologies that people actually enjoy and use?

Those are a few of the goals behind the establishment of GRAND Canada, one of three new centres of excellence launched recently by the federal government.

GRAND—short for graphics, animation and new media—involves 50 network investigators and 40 collaborating experts working on 30 projects. Led by Kellogg Booth from the University of British Columbia, the national network is funded with $23.2 million over five years. It will be headquartered at the Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus, a joint academic collaboration between UBC, Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

While based in British Columbia, GRAND involves researchers from coast to coast, including Dalhousie professors Elaine Toms and Stephen Brooks.

“There are some wonderful marriages that can arise because of the interconnectivity of the themes,” says Dr. Toms, Canada Research Chair in Management Informatics, and professor of business administration and computer science.

“What makes this so exciting is that potential for collaboration. When we work in disciplinary silos, we can only see one part of the problem and what this allows is to interact with 49 other people in various fields.”

GRAND will explore novel social media, e-learning and edutainment environments that enhance learning and skill development. Interconnected projects “are built on a conceptual framework of five themes,” explains Dr. Toms. The themes are: new media challenges and opportunities; games and interactive simulation; animation, graphics and imaging; social, legal, economic and cultural perspectives; and enabling technologies.

Dr. Brooks, associate professor of Computer Science at Dalhousie, will be involved in three different projects, including investigating ways to “add textures to virtual worlds.” The idea is to build virtual worlds—cities, parks, trees, landscapes, entire ecosystems—automatically for games and digital films, while still maintaining “a degree of artistic control,” he says.


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