Betting big on augmented reality (AR), Adobe has announced Project Aero, its tool for helping creators design and author AR content more easily. The company gave a live demonstration of Project Aero during its Max conference in Los Angeles.
Project Aero will help creators bring in their content from Photoshop and Adobe Dimension and convert it easily into AR objects. As Adobe’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Executive Vice-President Abhay Parasnis told indianexpress.com in an interaction, Adobe is looking at democratising AR content creation.
“With Project Aero, we are taking popular products like Photoshop, and making them completely aware of this new world of AR. So you can with one click publish content from Photoshop into a piece of art that’s on this table, without any coding required, which is a real breakthrough today,” explained Parasnis.
The company has already started a controlled beta release and, according to Parasnis, “multiple thousands of people have registered already to be in that early access.”
So why is Adobe looking at AR now? The concept itself is nothing new. Under Google’s now scrapped Project Tango, there was the talk of AR-ready phones, though the Tango-enabled phones did not really take off.
Adobe’s CTO points out that unlike other players they had not actually joined the hype and noise over the last few years. But things have changed over the last one year or so, especially with the way hardware has transformed.
Apple, in particular, put a big focus on AR with its ARKit platform. Running AR-ready apps no longer requires special hardware, unlike what was seen in phones like Lenovo’s Project Tango device, which was packed with extra sensors for the AR features.
“A real breakthrough on the hardware side was needed. And then combined with that somebody has to do the break on the software side, which is how you author these things,” Parasnis said.
“There’s been a lot of hype and noise for few years, and frankly, without the necessary pieces being in place. Now, I do think we are getting to an inflection point and that’s partly why we chose to come out,” he said mentioning how Apple’s work in AR was important. Parasnis expects that in the next year or two years, the hardware problem for AR will be all but solved.
“You’re going to see enough hardware that consumers have in their pockets or eventually on their heads that will be capable of doing compelling AR,” he notes.
With AR-ready hardware, the challenge will be in ensuring AR-ready content, and that’s where Adobe wants to step in with Project Aero. “Our vision has always been assuming the hardware ecosystem exists… We are very bullish on AR,” Adobe’s CTO said. “If you look at other approaches, AR requires a lot of development skills and hours if not days and weeks of coding to do. We showed the shortest route possible for that on stage,” he said.
Adobe is not just looking at AR content, but also for faster delivery of this content. AR Content Mapping is another aspect the company is examining and wants to ensure that one click will deliver this AR content anywhere on the planet for its customers.
Parasnis also thinks that AR will not just be limited to games or retail. He gives examples of travel, hospitality industry, of airports, museums, where AR could change the game drastically.
“Heathrow Airport is one of our big customers. They look at AR, and they say, this can be a real breakthrough. If you could just imagine lifting your phone and it will guide you personally to where you need to go next in the airport, where it’s not one billboard with a giant map, but it’s personalised for you,” he said.
Still, he cautions AR change will not happen overnight, something one rarely hears in the tech world when any kind of technology is discussed. “I think these things kind of have a curve, it will take time,” he said, adding that Adobe wants to make sure it lays out the “right foundational blocks.”
“I think with AR what’s going to happen is we will lay the foundation…I think you will see people push the innovation vector, how simple it becomes, we’ll see,” he said. However, he does not see the average consumer creating AR content, but rather that AR will impact their life in some way or the other.
He also points out that with Project Aero, the idea is AR only for now, and not for VR, admitting it will be interesting but “very narrow way, like in gaming or movies”. Adobe is also partnering with Apple for Project Aero, though the CTO says their customers should expect them to bring support cross-platform support for AR.
“They (Apple) have a lot deeper support for AR right now with their platform on a market with ARKit. But we have actually already announced support for GLTF, which is the other standard for 3D objects in AR that Google and Microsoft and Facebook and whole bunch of others are participating,” he added.
Project Aero was first announced in June this year, and this is the first time that Adobe has given a public demonstration of what it can actually do. The project is still in beta and is expected to officially go live in 2019.
Disclaimer: The author is in Los Angeles attending Adobe Max at the invite of Adobe India