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Adobe’s next big software secret? An augmented reality tool called Project Aero

Adobe is jumping into augmented reality. On June 4, Adobe teased a new venture called Project Aero, a tool for creating AR graphics. On Wednesday, July 25, the software giant shared a deeper glimpse into how the company expects creativity and AR to work together. Adobe will also bring USDZ file support to Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop CC and Dimension CC. The announcement comes on the heels of Apple’s WWDC keynote announcements, and will give creatives tools to publish AR objects compatible with Apple devices.

Project Aero is a multiplatform tool that brings graphics into an augmented reality space. In a demo video of the new software, designers started with graphics from Photoshop CC and Dimension CC before exporting as a Project Aero file. Inside the demo video, Project Aero uses a tablet to finalize the AR elements of the graphic, including using the device’s camera to preview the changes in an AR space. The demo also shows tools for animating the graphic along with scaling, rotating, and exporting to a USDZ file.

Project Aero is designed with Apple, but Adobe is also working with Apple and Pixar to add support for those USDZ files into Photoshop CC and Dimension CC. Converting into USDZ allows the files to be used with Apple’s ARKit.

Crafting a platform that simplifies AR creation isn’t an easy task — Adobe says every business group within the company is collaborating on the new project. The company says it will have more details on the upcoming software during Adobe Max, a conference later this fall.

“AR content development today also requires a combination of creativity and technical skills,” wrote Abhay Parasnis, Adobe executive vice president and chief technology officer. “Project Aero will deliver a system for both developers and creatives to build simple AR scenes and experiences leveraging Apple’s ARKit. Designers can easily create immersive content that can then be brought into Xcode for further refinement and development.”

For developers, Adobe’s announcement means upcoming software could help simplify the process of building AR objects. With easier content creation, Project Aero could mean wider accessibility to new AR content for the average smartphone user.

The AR graphic created in the demo video was part of what Adobe called “the first large-scale immersive art exhibition,” named the Festival of the Impossible. Adobe worked with 15 different artists on the project, which was held in June at the Minnesota Street Project, a gallery in San Francisco, Calif.

“We’re used to art that lives in the physical world, without all the advantages of interactivity,” Adobe’s head of augmented reality and Festival of the Impossible founder Stefano Corazza. “And we’re familiar with interactive experiences that are fully digital and live on a screen. AR is bridging these two worlds. It’s providing new flexibility and fluidity to the physical world.”

Artists can sign up to be early adopters of Project Aero at Adobe’s website.

Updated on July 27: Added more details on creativity and AR.

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