How Adobe Plans to Automate Repetitive, Time-Consuming Tasks With AI

October 18, 2017, 12:52 PM UTC

Adobe Systems, best known for its software catering to creative professionals, continues to freshen up its offerings with artificial intelligence.

Adobe (ADBE) touts its own AI technology, which it calls Sensei, as a way to automate time-consuming tasks that users once had to do manually or couldn’t complete at all. Among the new products and features to be unveiled later today at the Adobe MAX conference in Las Vegas is Auto-Lip Sync in Adobe Character Animator animation product, which matches mouth shapes with words based on audio files. It can be used in real-time for live video. The company is also adding AI-driven “font matching” to its Adobe Typekit software and font library to help graphic artists or marketers replicate a font seen in the wild.

“It lets you do a visual search,” explains Mala Sharma, vice president and general manager for Adobe’s Creative Cloud. “If you see an amazing letter type on a sign, you can take a photo with Adobe Capture. Then you send that to Typekit, which identifies it and recommends a font that is close.”

Related: Adobe Overhauls Marketing Services With an Eye on Non-Marketers

The San Jose-based company, which joined the Fortune 500 for the first time this year, has a strong franchise among designers and photographers, but is also trying to broaden its user base.

“Adobe has pretty much had the creative pro market sewn up for several years,” says Melissa Webster, a program vice president for market research firm IDC who specializes in content and digital media. Adobe’s challenge, she continues, is to reach non-professional creative types to increase its total audience while also boosting subscription revenue from existing users.

Sensei AI is a key part of that push. “AI can help streamline creative workflows by automating repetitive, manual tasks like tagging, triaging, grouping, selecting—things that take an inordinate amount of time,” Webster says.

Related: Microsoft and Adobe Ink Cloud Pact

Cindy Zhou, an analyst with Constellation Research says today’s “hyper-visual” era is driving demand for faster creation of good-looking content.

“Brands are all looking for their ‘Instagrammable moment,'” Zhou says. “Content velocity means the creative teams need to work faster and collaborate more frequently with other teams, like marketing demand programs to personalize content. Sensei AI helps there.”

Adobe’s challenge is extending its market opportunity to the creative non-pros to increase its total market opportunity while continuing to increase subscription revenue per user and fully defending its customer base from upstart vendors of point solutions.

Adobe Typekit gets visual search feature.

Related: Adobe Hints at AI in Photoshop

Adobe appears to be doing well there. For its last fiscal year, Adobe claims 35% growth in subscribers to its Creative Cloud software packages, which include Photoshop (image editing); Illustrator (graphics creation); InDesign (page design and layout); and Premiere Pro (video production and editing.) By making its software easier for non-professionals to learn and use, the company hopes it can take advantage of another $2.9 billion market opportunity.

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Sharma says Adobe makes it easy to get new customers into its applications at a low price. (One package for photographers costs $10 per user per month, or $120 per year.) Skeptics say that the subscription model that has been embraced not just by Adobe but by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), and virtually every other software vendor actually means higher prices in the long run.

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