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Adobe Seeks Respect for New Artificial Intelligence Tech

November 2, 2016, 12:44 PM UTC
Adobe Systems

Add Adobe Systems to the list of software companies proclaiming themselves to be artificial intelligence powers. It’s in august company: IBM (IBM), Microsoft, Salesforce (CRM) are all wrapping themselves in the artificial intelligence (aka AI) mantle.

On Wednesday, Adobe (ADBE) will show off Sensei, an array of AI technology that it is already adding to software applications for creating and publishing documents, and for analyzing and tracking web and mobile application performance. “Sensei” is the Japanese term for a respected teacher or leader.

Adobe founded in 1982, is a venerable force in the creative software world—it’s behind familiar tools including the Portable Document Format (PDF) used to format and distribute professional-looking documents; Photoshop for editing photographs; Illustrator for creating graphics; and InDesign for creating professional-looking documents for print or online.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company is also a power in web analytics—counting and assessing page views and unique views for online sites—in part due to its acquisition of Omniture seven years ago. In recent years its products have been bundled into the Adobe Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Document Cloud brands.

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Adobe chief technology officer Abhay Parasnis described Sensei as a “unified framework” or a set of services to be delivered across its products where applicable. Some of these capabilities are already available and others will be demonstrated Tuesday at the Adobe Max technology conference in San Diego.

For example, in the company’s current version of the Premier Pro video editing application, a “Morph Cut” feature analyzes the content of a movie or video, and assesses what type of content it is—an action scene or a closeup of a face. Then, it decides what the most appropriate editing effect is for that clip. That feature will now crop up, as part of Sensei, in other Adobe cloud services where it might be useful, he said.

Ditto the creepily-named “Face Aware Liquify” feature in Photoshop Lightroom 6, which lets an editor tweak facial images easily without screwing up the rest of the image. Part of what gives Adobe an advantage is the sheer number of images and documents it has worked on over the years.

Adobe says it also can bring more smarts to document search based on its publishing and analytics experience.

For more on Adobe, read: Microsoft and Adobe ink cloud pact

“In documents today, the state of the art is searching based on file or author names. We have services in Sensei that let you ask a simple question to find all the white papers with content similar to what you’re writing now. What is the sentiment analysis? Is this document positive? It will analyze the content of the document, the writing style,” he said.

Sensei, Adobe says, brings together AI and machine learning that can be applied to image matching across multiple millions of images; and to understanding the meaning and context of documents. Machine learning is a subset of AI that pores over tons of data (the more the better) to detect patterns and present results in a visual way. In this field, more is more, when it comes to data and Parasnis said Adobe has gathered trillions of data points from its analytics and image work.

Adobe runs this technology in its own data center but also uses Amazon (AMZN) Amazon Web Services and, more recently, the company inked a deal to use Microsoft Azure cloud services as well.

Paranis said just as Adobe of yore provided applications for both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft (MSFT)Windows operating systems (and subsequently Apple (AAPL) iOS and Android mobile devices) it now seeks to be cloud-agnostic. “We focus on the applications and abstract out what they run on ,” he said.

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Constellation Research principal analyst Alan Lepofsky said he is impressed because Adobe is not just building another AI platform.

“Instead they are focusing on how machine learning can be applied to specific use cases of its Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Document Cloud. I like that they are focusing on their domain expertise and weigh what can help customers. It’s also interesting that a lot of this is already built today and will evolve with the partnership announced with Microsoft Azure.”


Note: This story was updated to correct the name of Photoshop Lightroom, and Adobe’s claim that it has acumulated trillions, not billions, of data points from its past work.