People

Picture this: Adobe’s new 3D tools help creatives generate virtual photos

With a package of new apps, Adobe is betting that virtual photography and 3D designs are here to stay.

Adobe virtual photography illustration

Big companies have for some time used 3D renderings to create virtual photos of their products. A new Adobe software suite aims to make this process easier.

Photo: Adobe

Add photography to the long list of things that may never be the same after the pandemic: When photo studios and agencies closed their doors last year, a number of companies turned to 3D graphics and virtual photography to create photorealistic assets and designs.

Adobe is betting that this trend will continue even as pandemic restrictions are lifted. The company released a new suite of 3D tools Wednesday that aims to help creatives in a wide variety of industries embrace virtual photography and 3D design.

Adobe VP of 3D and Immersive Sébastien Deguy told Protocol that the software could change how companies market and design products, and perhaps ultimately even lead to the creation of entirely new types of products. Big companies are "redefining the design process completely right now," he said.

  • Adobe Substance 3D consists of four applications. With these individual tools, designers can create 3D objects, apply textures and materials to these objects, create materials based on real-world images and stage objects in what amounts to virtual versions of real-world studio sets.
  • Substance 3D also taps into the company's online 3D asset library, and each tool is closely interconnected. Designers can, for instance, create an object in Substance 3D Painter, and then send it with one click to 3D Stager to incorporate it into a virtual environment.
  • There's a bunch of cool technology working under the hood. 3D Sampler, for instance, uses AI to create 3D objects based on 2D photos. That way, a flat photo of a brick wall can be transformed into a 3D-rendered asset with depth and shadows that respond to virtual lights, ready to be incorporated into a digital 3D scene.

Deguy joined Adobe in early 2019, when the company acquired his digital design tools startup Allegorithmic. He has been building out a dedicated 3D team within Adobe ever since, which included the hire of Pixar veteran Guido Quaroni as senior director of engineering earlier this year.

But while Adobe had long planned to launch its own 3D software, the pandemic definitely increased demand for these kinds of tools by forcing designers to change their process. "They work from home," Deguy said. "They have to work more collaboratively."

  • Even before the pandemic, virtual photography emerged as a way for companies to create photorealistic digital assets at scale. Ikea, for instance, began to use 3D modeling instead of traditional photography for a majority of the images in its catalog years ago.
  • Other companies that have embraced this trend include Ben & Jerry's as well as Lowe's, which recently digitized its entire catalog with Adobe's 3D tools.
  • And those product photos released each year by big tech companies for their new gadgets, with living rooms that seem to always magically match the latest fabric speaker cover colors? They're almost certainly created digitally as well. "It is indiscernible" from photos taken in studios, Deguy said about virtual photography.

Virtual photos of real products, created cheaper, faster and more safely: That's only a first step for digital 3D designs. Companies will also be able to use these tools during the product design process, Deguy explained, and they will be able to use the resulting imagery to market products differently. One example: 3D objects can more easily be turned into augmented reality assets, which consumers can then place into their own living rooms, and perhaps one day explore with dedicated AR glasses.

"The demand for 3D tools is only going to grow," Deguy said. "Life is in 3D, and now, creativity is in 3D, too."

Theranos’ investor pitches go on trial

Prosecutors in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud case are now highlighting allegations the company sought to mislead investors.

The fresh details of unproven claims made about the viability of Theranos' blood tests and efforts to conceal errors when demonstrating testing equipment added to the evidence against Holmes, who is accused of fraud in her role leading the company.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Theranos trial continued this week with testimony from Daniel Edlin, a former product manager at the blood-testing startup, and Shane Weber, a scientist from Pfizer. Their testimonies appeared to bolster the government's argument that Holmes intentionally defrauded investors and patients.

The fresh details about audacious and unproven claims made about the viability of Theranos' blood tests and efforts to conceal errors when demonstrating testing equipment added to the evidence against Holmes, who is accused of fraud in her role leading the company.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporting fellow at Protocol, based out of Los Angeles. Previously, she worked for Ernst & Young, where she researched and wrote about the future of work, emerging technologies and startups. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied business and philosophy. She can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol | Policy

8 takeaways from states’ new filing against Google

New details have been unsealed in the states' antitrust suit against Google for anticompetitive behavior in the ads market.

Google is facing complaints by government competition enforcers on several fronts.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Up to 22%: That's the fee Google charges publishers for sales on its online ad exchanges, according to newly unredacted details in a complaint by several state attorneys general.

The figure is just one of the many details that a court allowed the states to unveil Friday. Many had more or less remained secrets inside Google and the online publishing industry, even through prior legal complaints and eager public interest.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Workplace

This tech founder uses a converted Sprinter van as an office on wheels

The CEO of productivity startup Rock likes to work on the road. Here's how he does it — starting with three different WiFi hotspots.

Kenzo Fong, founder and CEO of the 20-person productivity software startup Rock, has been working out of his converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van since the pandemic began.

Photo: Kenzo Fong/Rock

Plenty of techies have started companies in garages. Try running a startup from a van.

In San Francisco, one software company founder has been using a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van — picture an Amazon delivery vehicle — as a mobile office.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Policy

Most Americans want AI regulation — and they want it yesterday

In a poll, people said they wanted to see artificial intelligence technologies develop in the U.S. — alongside rules governing their use.

U.S. lawmakers have only just begun the long process of regulating the use of AI.

Photo: Louis Velazquez/Unsplash

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want the U.S to regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence in the next year or sooner — with half saying that regulation should have begun yesterday, according to a Morning Consult poll. Another 13% say that regulation should start in the next year.

"You can thread this together," Austin Carson, founder of new nonprofit group SeedAI and former government relations lead for Nvidia, said in an email. "Half or more Americans want to address all of these things, split pretty evenly along ideological lines."

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

ai
Latest Stories