It was fun being on stage at MAX with David Wadhwani to share a few of the projects that we have been working on in XD. The team has been exploring how new form factor displays, new interactions (like touch and gesture), cloud connections and even new hardware might change how you all create and in turn how it might impact what software we need to build. And we have been having a serious amount of fun.
Although there are many explorations going on, we chose three to highlight. The first, Mighty, is our connected pen:
We actually started project Mighty, our “cloud pen” to help us focus on the future of drawing. I’ve always been a little obsessed with drawing. An early mentor of mine said: “If you can’t draw, you can’t think. I guess I took that to heart. The good news is that absolutely anyone can train himself or herself to draw. With the right tools to support you it’s a little bit like learning to ride a bike – you just have to keep doing it until you tease out your own style of drawing.
Mighty is pressure sensitive, which helps it draw a natural and expressive line. It is also connected to the Creative Cloud through the software and a local Bluetooth LE connection. We have used this connection to pull up Kuler themes and enable a “cloud clipboard” which gives you access to assets you have saved to the cloud for reuse.
Mighty was created with the help of Ammunition, the industrial design firm founded by Robert Brunner. They landed on a three-sided, twisted form that is inspired by the ergonomics of holding a pen. When a child struggles with writing, he or she is given a triangular grip that fits over the pencil. Our design takes that one step further by twisting the pen’s triangular form so that it also rests gently on the hand. It also yields a sculptural object that is both beautiful and distinct. There’s a lot of hardware technology involved in bringing a high tech pen like this to life, so we’ve been working with San Francisco-based MindTribe on the electrical and mechanical engineering.
Although we spend many hours a day behind the keyboard and mouse, we still often start the creative process as we did thousands of years ago with pen and paper. But with tablets and new input methods like Mighty, this is going to change – I am confident. Over the last year, my tablet has replaced my sketchbook. I never thought I would give up drawing in a moleskin sketchbook.
Our second exploration, code named Napoleon is complementary to Mighty. This digital ruler is designed to bring back some of the feeling of drawing with analog tools like the t-square and triangle. Adobe has been talking about building a physical drawing aid like this ever since we built our first digital drafting table, almost two years ago.
I was originally trained as an architect, and still find great comfort and confidence drawing with these tools. There is something about the confidence of drawing a line aided by a physical device – the tactile feedback you get as you move the straightedge around – as well as the fluidity and accuracy of drawing that comes from interacting with physical objects. Our little ruler (Napoleon, get it?) creates a digitally projected edge that you can use to accurately draw shapes and lines. It just feels right.
We are looking at a lot of potential features for Napoleon, but a favorite of mine is snapping to vanishing points. Imagine how easy it will be to sketch in perspective, when you can use the ruler to quickly create and then snap to perspective vanishing points that are well off screen.
Finally, Project Context is the most ambitious of the three explorations. I like to think of it as our answer to “big content.” You know, just like big data, but with images and text and video and the like. Most of us have experience with printing hundreds of images and trying to pin them all on the wall or spreading them on the floor just to try to figure out the big picture. This is another good example of how something was lost when we went from physical to digital. Somehow file folders full of assets, or tiled displays of images don’t quite cut it. We think that large screens with touch and gesture interaction paired with the appropriate software design are a way to not only get back what was lost, but to take the organizing and producing experience to a whole new level.
When combined with InDesign and the Digital Publishing Suite, Context creates an ideal editorial and publishing environment for Wired and other publishers. Context offers a powerful and intuitive way to grab assets from just about anywhere, and to collaboratively organize and eventually even edit and publish them. These exploratory projects stand a much better chance of becoming real shipping products when we work with a customer to build them. We have the good fortune to be working with WIRED to build out the first version of Context as a system to support the editorial and layout process for their magazine.
Digitally enabled, cloud connected physical devices leverage the best from both the digital and the analog worlds. They could enable whole new levels of creative productivity and artistic confidence – and one of the many innovation milestones that makes an Adobe incredible place to work.