Sobouh Rahimi

Adobe is pulling ahead in the AI race: A look at innovations Adobe MAX

This week, Adobe hosted its annual showcase event, Adobe Max. Adobe publicly released its innovations during the conference and gave a sneak peek of what's to come. A company that was once behind in its AI innovations is now ahead of the game by a longshot - how’d they do

“Let the robots do the work.” – a quote heard over and over at Adobe Max this year

Adobe is not new to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) game. But with the innovation boom of the last year, it appeared that the legacy software was trailing far behind. Today, with the innovations revealed at Adobe Max, the story is much, much different. 

For some context...

In September 2022 Adobe announced its acquisition of a crowd favorite design platform – Figma. This followed other similar, but much smaller, acquisitions in prior years of and workfront. For a brief two-month period following this announcement, collaborative design seemed like the next big thing.

Why only two months? Because only two months after this acquisition, much to everyones surprise, OpenAI publicly released their generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT. The platform’s release was a disruptive event that set off a modern-day space race – an innovation boom comparable to that of the steam engine.

Adobe had been working on Artificial Intelligence for some time already. Designers have been working with its “Content-Aware Fill” and other intelligent features for some time. But that wasn’t enough. The capabilities of other generative illustration programs like DALL-E and Midjourney forced an accelerated innovation timeline for Adobe, where it seemed, at least briefly, that Adobe was old news.

So what's new in 2023?

Just a touch-up, please!

A couple of months ago, Adobe released a series of generative AI features in Photoshop – the program that it claims “Over 90% of the world’s creative professionals use.” “Generative Fill” is an enhanced version of Content-Aware Fill (a popular tool since 2018 that used AI, too), which now creates realistic imagery based on your text input instead of relying only on surrounding visuals. 

At Adobe Max’s “Sneaks” panel, they also previewed “Project Fast Fill” and “Project Stardust” – the successive evolutions of Generative Fill. 

AI meets Ai

(That’s Artificial Intelligence meeting Adobe Illustrator)

This week, the newest update to Illustrator’s beta programs announced at Adobe Max included impressive generative AI capabilities that should not be ignored.

They’re calling it “Text to Vector Graphic” 

See Text-to-Vector in action, realtime:

How is it different from other generative illustration tools? Unlike most other programs today, which only offer flat (think: pixelated) designs – Adobe’s new Text to Vector Graphic tool created fully editable, scalable graphics from text alone.

These innovations are not limited to Illustrator. Adobe has been launching an entire lineup of “x-to-y” tools, including “Text to template” for Adobe Express, “Text to Video,” and even “image to video” in Adobe Firefly.

Video editing is now a breeze


Other exciting announcements included automatic enhanced speech, text-based video editing, filler word detection and filtering, and an unexpected sneak peek of “Dub, Dub, Dub.” (a tool that lets you seamlessly dub different languages in the video)

These tools addressed one of the most significant pain points for marketing content managers – the complexities of video editing.

What Makes Adobe's AI GTM different?

A slurry of companies have been competing in the “modern-day space race.” Some haphazardly plugged ChatGPT APIs into their technology and spun it as their own. (looking at you, Snapchat’s creepy AI Companion…) Others have tried to release their minimum viable products in record time, hoping to cash in early. (ahem, ahem, Bard, Bing AI and every other company)

But Adobe’s approach is noticeably different.

For starters, adobe’s innovations aren’t just cool projects. There were two common problems that almost all of their new tools solved. On one end they addressed the anxiety of a “blank page”, and on another they removed a great deal of the busy work. These are intelligent tools that solve real problems that creatives deal with every day. 

The timeline is also important. Adobe has been working on AI since the 2016 release of Sensei. Its intelligent editing features and analytics tools were ahead of their time for the late 2010s. Today, they’ve erupted into rapid boiling – pushed over the edge by the latest innovation boosts. This means that they’re bringing to surface projects that have been years in the making.

Another major differentiator? Adobe hasn’t ignored the risks. In their most recent 10-K report, Adobe outlined the risks associated with its AI business – “The rapid evolution of AI will require the application of resources to develop, test and maintain our products and services to help ensure that AI is implemented ethically in order to minimize unintended, harmful impact.” 

Adobe claims that their AI models are trained on content that does not infringe on artist’s work, and has put in place safeguards to protect artists personal styles. Shantanu Narayen, the Chair & CEO of Adobe, has also publicly pushed for a ” nutritional label” equivalent for content published online via metadata and data hashing, citing its Content Authenticity Initiative, which the company announced in 2019. Adobe is a member of the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) and has signed the White House’s voluntary commitments along with OpenAI, IBM, Salesforce, Nvidia, and others.


Shantanu Nurayen, CEO of Adobe

"Every Person has a fear of a blank page"

Shantanu Narayen, Chair & CEO, Adobe

What's to come?


I’ve taught myself the entire Adobe suite since I was 12 (that’d be over a decade ago – wow); why? Because there is nothing more infuriating to me than having a vision and an inability to express it – a feeling that I and other creatives know too well.

Narayen described the purpose of Adobe’s innovations as a solution to precisely this. “Every person has a fear of a blank page” he said in an interview with The Economic Times and AI capabilities will allow “Creation for the billions.” 

As more of such technologies become readily available, they will welcome an era of unprecedented and democratized creativity more efficiently and faster than ever. Designers can now reduce time to value and allow stakeholders to preview design options and guide direction in literal minutes instead of weeks. 

Who are the biggest winners here? In my opinion, its small businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives: the cost and time to value for creative assets just got slashed, big. Visionaries and entrepreneurs can put their ideas to work quicker, without the need for technical hindrances. This all means that now is an exciting time to start bringing your ideas to life and live by my motto “let’s make something great.” – because the tools are already at your disposal.


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