Among the more intriguing moments at Monday’s WWDC keynote was Apple software honcho Craig Federighi’s announcement that Apple, Pixar, and Adobe have been working together on USDZ, a new file format for 3D content for use in AR apps. For Apple, it’s a way to help boost iOS 12’s AR infrastructure, building on the platform it started to roll out last year with ARKit.
And for Adobe, USDZ is an opportunity to ensure that the company’s creative tools will remain indispensable as more and more designers want to crank out AR content. With that in mind, the company used WWDC to begin teasing Project Aero, an iPhone and iPad app which will help designers bring content that originates in Adobe products such as Photoshop and Dimension into AR experiences. It plans to reveal more details at its own MAX conference in October.
AR has been on designers’ radar screens since at least 2012, when Google announced its Glass goggles. “We have been very intentional about not joining the noise until we had something unique,” says Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis, who I chatted with at WWDC after he made appearances in both the morning keynote and an afternoon “state of the union” presentation. He told me that the company has had a “great collaboration” with both Apple and Pixar. (The latter company created the original USD format, the basis for USDZ). “The beauty of this is we have a shared belief, but each one has a unique perspective and set of strengths,” Parasnis says.
USD will only reach its full potential if it’s supported by platforms beyond iOS—most notably Android, which got its own AR upgrades last month at Google’s I/O conference. Though USDZ ubiquity would benefit Adobe, Parasnis stopped short of predicting that the new format will quickly become an industry-wide standard: “These are early days, with lots of competition and experimentation going on.”