Adobe Develops AR Software, Mixed Reality Display Tech

Adobe plans to release three apps — Aero, Fresco and Photoshop for the iPad — that focus on mixing physical elements with digital ones. The apps will allow users to switch back and forth easily between mobile and desktop devices and are cloud-native, enabling easy collaboration. The company’s chief technology officer Abhay Parasnis also recently showcased Project Glasswing, a mixed reality display prototype that will bring all the apps’ features as Photoshop or After Effects layers on a transparent screen in front of real 3D objects.

The Verge reports that Parasnis demonstrated the new apps, “starting with Fresco, the upcoming raster and vector illustration app for the iPad.” Brush strokes created there and saved were then opened in Photoshop for the iPad. The goal, he said, is to make the apps “feel the same, not just in the UI, but in the paradigm of cloud documents.” In other words, “files should seem local, while the actual work is happening in the cloud, instantly syncing and saving every change.”

Fresco, which recreates the analog experience of painting with watercolors and oil paints, took eight years of research relying on Adobe Sensei’s AI software. The team’s first version ran on high-end GPUs, and research followed to make sure the brush strokes “wouldn’t drain battery life and performance.” Resulting research both limited the latency and got the “brushes and paints to mix naturally in real time.”

Aero is an augmented reality authoring tool that lets designers “create immersive experiences through the Adobe tools they already know how to use without having to know how to code.” The goal in creating Aero was to take the digital output of Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Dimension and “seamlessly bring them to life in physical 3D spaces.”

Adobe worked with USDZ, an AR file format created by Apple and Pixar, which is enabled only for iOS. That means files “can be exported to show up in iPhones on regular apps like iMessage and Safari, without having to download separate AR viewers.”

With Aero, the artists can drag-and-drop and the app automatically applies physics and lighting. Artists can fine-tune their work with “3D textures and materials from Substance, the texturing software by Allegorithmic, which Adobe recently acquired.” Aero is in closed beta.

Project Glasswing aims to create “a transparent LCD display that could potentially be used in retail environments or public spaces like hotels and museums.” The prototype can blend digital and physical elements without the user needing glasses or a headset, but Parasnis is quick to note that it is only “a means for Adobe to showcase how its software can be used in real-life applications, especially in retail,” and that the company plans to partner with other companies that would build the hardware.