Adobe Sneak Peeks: Mighty, Napoleon and More

While yesterday’s big reveals at the Adobe MAX creativity conference were pretty impressive, everyone and their mother really looks forward to the “Sneak Peeks” portion of the event. This is when Adobe essentially escorts its attendees into the lab to take a look at the technological advances it has prototyped and may plan to reveal in the coming years. A few new technologies were actually revealed in the conference’s first day: Project Mighty, Project Napoleon and Project Context. Let’s take a look at those three, as well as the ones introduced as part of the MAX closing session.

image001Project Mighty and Project Napoleon

Because design work has traditionally been focused on the physical nature of pen-and-paper designs, Adobe strives to create hardware that allows designers to go back to basics, without sending them back to the Stone Age. Enter Mighty, a digital stylus with a brain. This tool affords designers the control of sketching with a pen while working directly on a tablet or other digital device. While drawing using Mighty in one hand, creatives can use their free hand to erase parts of the image that aren’t working. To access personal settings and tool menus (such as color palettes and brushes) via the cloud, simply click Mighty on the device and your saved preferences will appear. Artists can also copy and paste images, and when, say, attempting to help someone drawing-challenged on his iPad, Mighty retains your copied image and preferences across devices. To compliment Mighty, Adobe developed Napoleon, a short ruler that works with Mighty to add perspective to design work. Drawing a straight line on a tablet has never been so easy. Both products are part of a new family of Adobe projects that combine the power of the cloud with the physicality of traditional design tools.

Project Context

More geared toward in-house designers who work on publications, Project Context is a collaboration between Adobe and Wired magazine that works to take the best practices for editing and designing a magazine in the analog world and translates them to the digital realm using a new series of hardware. Two screens and a table unite to give creatives a means of sharing, viewing and editing magazine work in a way that is more intuitive than the standard “print it out and pin it on the wall” approach. While the old technique allows designers to see the layouts as a whole, the new technology allows them to flip through pages and scroll—which is a better way to see not only print versions but digital editions as well. Shared assets are stored in a folder that all the designers can access, and pages can be tossed from the preview containers on the wall to the editing table simply by grabbing and tossing it using your fingers. Edits can be made in a designer’s own handwriting directly on the screen or by typing in a note. Once it has been marked up, it can be tossed back onto the wall for everyone to see and review. If you are an “NCIS: Los Angeles” fan, the concept and hardware are similar to the screens the actors use in the tech lab when watching video clips of crimes or pulling up forged ID cards.

Other Sneaks for Potential Adobe Products

In the list of sneak products that follow, some may actually move beyond the prototype while others won’t. Right now, most of them are nameless. Below is a quick recap. See something you love? Be sure to let Adobe know, as your input could help ensure the best prototypes are revealed at future Adobe MAX events.

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to see which website design elements belong to which segments of code? With this tool in Edge Reflow, the designer would be able to split the screen so that the website is shown above with the HTML below. By animating the code, specific design elements come into view.
  • Many people were impressed with the shake reduction tool mentioned in Tuesday’s post that allowed images to be fixed on a desktop computer. With this update, designers would be able to do the same on a tablet. It would take a lot of math to figure out the direction of the shake, how much the image is blurred and calculate the distance of the photo elements from the camera, and in most cases, creatives are limited to the power of the device they’re using. With the cloud, however, designers have much more power at their disposal to accomplish all of these tasks. Creatives can five renderings of the photo showing various levels of correction. These renderings can then be distributed across devices and rated based on a star system.
  • A new tool allows less-than-stellar lighting in an otherwise ideal photo to be switched out. Consider this scenario: Your vacation photos would make a great poster for an upcoming project, but the harsh sunlight leaves the landscape looking a little washed out. Simply find a lighting situation from a photo online and put it in your vacation photo. The tool works for any lighting situation on any photo, and when the artist alters the viewpoint of the photo, the lighting stays the same. Not sure which lighting you like best? Cycle through several options. The same technology can be applied to videos. Give “Transformers” a film noir feel using the lighting feature. Use the tool for audio applications as well, by adding, for example, the action music from “Transformers” to a scene in the French film “Amélie.”
  • When using Muse to export a site into HTML, the final product can end up looking flat. Combat this problem and communicate the site’s story in a new way by using a new set of tools. The new effects allow designers to scroll, rotate, fade in and customize the color of objects on the website. By enabling parallax scroll, the new motions add more depth and credibility to the designs. Normally trigonometry would be required for some of the 3D applications, but this tool makes creating such effects seamless.
  • This one is dedicated to the Java developers who want a better way to find and debug problematic code. Using this tool, developers simply fire up the code in the browser and hold down command to see everything that applies to a specific element on the website. This feature shows which lines of code need to change to correct a problem. Now, launching the server with the debugger, known as Theseus, allows developers to work on code while the program runs in the background. Code that isn’t working shows up in gray, and red and green dots indicate where things are going wrong and when those things have been fixed, respectively. The best part? Two problems can be debugged simultaneously.
  • For people like me who couldn’t paint a picture to save her life, this tool is something worth getting excited about. A new paint tool helps people paint using special brushes that grab elements from other copied photos. This allows the non-creative to engage in the creative process without being good at it. Brushes can also be layered and change sizes to create different effects.
  • Designers that don’t have the resources to create a digital edition of their publications that are interactive on a tablet may be in luck. A new feature allows creatives to go into Photoshop and use tools to apply interactive effects to a simple publication that only scrolls from one flat page to another. This product will allow designers to use the Digital Publishing Suite (meaning no hassles with code). Simply draw a box, set the parameters of the desired effect and enjoy. Some effects even change when shaking or spinning the tablet, such as a snowfall effect that changes the direction of the flurries.
  • Fashionistas everywhere will rejoice if this program makes its way onto the market. Say you are going to a wedding and have an idea of a dress you would like to don for the occasion. This tool allows creatives to use templates to draw, resize, color and reshape the dress design you want. Then, Liquid Search allows you to scour the interwebs without having to Google a single word. The same works for shoes, T-shirts and more. As you alter the design, the template changes to reflect what you want. Once you see something you like, you can select it from the available options.
  • When developers attempt to work off Photoshop designs, something is often left to be desired. Namely, figuring out the code for everything in the image can be next to impossible. With this tool, you can mouse over the image in Photoshop and get measurement info that can be used to write the code. Code hints can be used to show the font size, etc., and the information can be extracted from Photoshop without opening the program. Select images like logos and create a folder with the image directly on the hardrive.
  • One of my favorite demos of the night, Adobe has created something for aspiring musicians everywhere. Audio files can now be separated into layers like images in Photoshop. Take a single recording with multiple sounds (such as a singer who created a song with vocals and acoustic guitar) and separate out its components. The layers can be illustrated in color so that one color can be easily removed. Remove a cellphone ring from a voice acting clip. Once the sounds are separated out, they can be played back together. If you want to raise or lower the volume of the guitar, you now have the opportunity to alter that layer.
  • In one demo on Monday, audience members learned how to change viewpoints in a photo. With this tool, designers could change the perspective in one part of the photo without messing with the other parts. If a photo of a cityscape looks fine on the right but the buildings fall away on the left, the designer can lock the image on the right side and fix the perspective on the left. Imagine you want to take a 3D shape and change the perspective of that object within the overall image. One feature of the tool allows you to set grid lines to indicate the planes that exist in the photo. This helps keep everything straight instead of bending like jello. You can then change the viewpoint to see the photo head on instead of from the side by moving the objects you want. This also helps designers line up the vanishing points in the photo to ensure everything looks as real as possible.

Want to see some of these prototypes in action? Check out the videos.


Inspired by some of the futuristic technologies? Be sure to check out Adobe’s booth at HOW Design Live. Sign up to attend today.