AH howp aabody hus bin enjoying the scrievins an wittins frae oor new team o writers in Scots in The National? Some o the brichtest an maist able young writers in the laund are nou abuird wi the Scots column an wir sails are setten fair fir Scots tae sail forrit intil a new generation o Scots speikers an scrievers!

This expansion o the Scots writin scheme is aareadies haein a positive linguistic effect oan the nation! E’en thon kenspeckle Scottish Labour politeecian Neil Findlay MSP hus nou bin muived tae scrieve in Scots! Some o his spellin wis gey dwaiblie ah’ll admit, but weel duin Neil in finally gettin tae grups wi yer ‘ither national language’ in “guid black prent” an oan Twitter tae!

Neil wull be firmly awaur that the kindae Scots he wis ettlin tae write is the leid spaken bi maist warkin cless fowk in Scotland, sae this shuid hae mass appeal fir his Labour warkin cless ruits. Weel duin Neil! Ah’ll be monitoring Neil’s Twitter ongauns fir the neist twa/three months an wull report back tae ye’se the nummer o Tweets Neil writes in Scots in that time. But it’s guid tae hae ony o wir politeecians votin wi their feet (or pens) an actually haein a go at uisin Scots in a public forum.

Nou, as we’re still in the heich season o whisky an haggis, as ye micht jalouse, ah hae bin gey thrang this past hauntle o weeks wi Burns Suppers an preparations fir the launch last week o wir latest incarnation/evolution o the new digitally animated Burns heid. This is anither steg doun the road frae the original model o Burns’s heid that wis constructed bi Professor Caroline Wilkinson an her team in the forensic science department at Dundee University. Caroline is nou based at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) an it’s frae here that she hus directed the ongauns fir creatin the latest version o Rabbie.

Keep mind, this Rabbie is based oan the Bard’s skull an’s no some “artistic imagining” o him. This is verra much hou Burns wid hae luiked in rael life – aa ither eemages o him (Naismyth, Skirving, Taylor, etc…) are aa pretty much approximations an “airbrushed” veesions o Burns.

But tae oor tale, sae tae speik…. It hus cost a bing o siller tae finance the new heid’s reconstruction this past twa/three year, wi a wheen o cuttin edge scientists an leadin “tech” companies takkin pairt – the likes o LJMU’s Face Lab team, University o Dundee, an Dimensional Imaging (D4D), based in Glesga. A bank o mair as a hunner wee camera lenses filmed ma heid as ah read Burns’s fawmous To a Mouse poem, capturing evri gesture or peedie wee muscle twitch.

This D4D information wis captured then transferred digitally tae the 3D model o the heid, aareadies in the computer. Ma ain voice wis then addit an synced tae the final animation. Aa this wark required verra specialist animation skills, facial expression knowledge, craniofacial expertise an ingyne, wi the latest digital, CGI an motion capture technology. We’re in the realms o rocket science here fowks.

It taen the animators months an months o eident wark tae recreate evri wee muivement an finally hae Rabbie readin his poem tae the warld aince agane. Ye can see Rabbie an hear the story o aa this online: https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/news/articles/2018/1/25/new-animation-brings-robert-burns-back-to-life

It’s fascinatin stuff, an braw information fir weans interestit in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects in wir schuils!

In 2009, Burns wis voted “The Greatest Scot” o aa time an his face is kythed in mair ceeties across the warld than ony ither historical figure. Thair aiblins £170 million a year added tae Scotland’s economy ilk year relatin tae Burns an his poetry.

This new recreation o Burns is aiblins a warld first! Thair hae o coorse bin mony animated imaginins o historic figures, artistic an subjective in thair natuir, but this is the first globally important poet that hus bin “brocht back tae life” as he wid hae verra much luiked in the flesh. Mind, it’s an evolvin science an there’s plans afuit tae mak the Burns heid e’en mair realistic in its neist reincarnation. Gin anely we hud a Star Wars animation budget at oor disposal. But aa this keeps Burns, his legacy, memory an wark firmly in the public ee – at a global level. An aa that pits bawbees intil the Scottish traivel, leisure, culture, education, historical an tourism budgets. Addin tae that muckle £170m aareadies made bi Rabbie! It’s jist a peety the poet hudnae ony access tae these riches in his lifetime.

Ah’ll aiblins lea the last wird oan this tae ma guid fiere, director of LJMU Face Lab Professor Caroline Wilkinson, wha said: “This real-life animation of Robert Burns has brought the poetry of this Scots bard back to life for generations to come. It will help to promote Scottish culture and to visualise his charismatic and creative personality.

“To see Burns reciting his own poetry was a remarkable moment. Face Lab’s facial animation research is important as there is potential to apply facial animation techniques to animate faces of people from the past produced via facial reconstruction from human remains.

“In the future you may be able to interact with people from history digitally, listen to them speak, recite literature or have them guide you around a museum exhibit as a virtual avatar.

“There is potential to animate other high profile historical facial depictions including William Shakespeare, St Nicholas, King Richard III or Robert the Bruce.”

Ah think Robert Burns wid be richt prood, eftir mair as twa hunner year, tae still be at the verra centre o sic important international ongauns. As Rabbie said: ‘The mair they talk, ah’m kent the better….!’