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Adobe’s latest AI experiments will melt your brain

Every year, Adobe pulls up the curtain on some of its most futuristic projects. Here’s the best of 2020.

Adobe’s latest AI experiments will melt your brain
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Adobe’s biggest week of the year is its Adobe MAX conference. And while the company always announces new products, the most compelling part of the event is often unrelated to anything that actually ships.

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I’m referring to Adobe’s “Sneaks,” or the UX experiments that Adobe Research and engineering teams are working on that aren’t quite ready to be put into real products yet. These are often powered by Adobe’s reality-altering AI platform called Sensei.

“About 60% of the concepts presented in the history of Adobe Sneaks have made their way into our products,” says Gavin Miller, VP and head of Adobe Research. “The goal of MAX Sneaks is to get real, immediate feedback from our customers and community about what those innovations mean to them—what’s useful, what can be improved, and what can be more impactful to creatives in their daily lives.”

Assuming Adobe gets enough interest in a Sneak, it might make it into products within a few years.

This week, Adobe shared 10 new Sneaks at its MAX conference. Three in particular stood out to us not just for their potential utility, but for their sheer wow factor.

Typographic brushes

Anyone who has created their own hand-painted typography knows it’s a tricky proposition getting each glyph to match in just the right style. Typographic Brushes allows you to trace a typeface while giving it your own unique spin—but it lets you take a shortcut in the process.

After tracing a few letters, the system can learn your style, then auto-apply it to the entire alphabet. Within moments, you can literally type in a custom painted typeface of your own design. The chalk menu boards at your favorite coffee shop never stood a chance.

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Comic Blast

Say you’ve written a comic book script, but you don’t have a team of artists, letterists, and inkers to spend hours and hours to actually draw it up. Comic Blast can actually import a standardly formatted comic book script and create all of the panels and word bubbles for you. Don’t like the exact word bubble layout? You can drag and drop them to reposition and even combine them—meaning that you have the flexibility to set up the scene as you like, just like bona fide comic book creators do.

From there, yes, you need to upload your own sketches to fill the panels with scenes and characters. But Comic Blast inks them automatically, and you can even edit a character’s face by making it copy your own expression through your computer’s camera. The only feature that seems to be missing is your own talent.

Material World

When you render a scene from scratch in 3D, you are left with a ghost world of objects, devoid of color or texture. Adding these details can be as laborious as creating the core shapes. You need to find, or create, the skins that go over each object individually. The greatest limiter to the quality of your product can be the time you have to spend to make each element in the scene perfect.

But Material World lets you take a photo—say of a particular knitted fabric or tree bark—and auto-apply it to any 3D object. This sort of texture technology has been around for years to some extent. However, Material World takes things a step further by automatically converting those 2D sample photos you source into true 3D textures, with bumps and grooves that can catch dynamic shadows for realism. So when light hits that tree, it won’t just look like a light pole is wearing a pair of camouflage pants, but that the tree is actually a bumpy, organic plant.

Time will tell which, if any, of these features, will make it into the Adobe products of tomorrow. That said, it’s impressive to see how automation continues to work its way higher and higher into the creative process.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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