Channel: Artificial Intelligence
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Adobe's CTO explains how it's competing with the rest of Silicon Valley for AI talent, and why it's trying to make its own products irrelevant before a competitor can (ADBE)


Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis

  • Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis says that the company, most famous for tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, is different from its Silicon Valley peers when it comes to artificial intelligence.
  • Where Facebook, Google, and others are trying to build superpowerful general-purpose AI, Parasnis says that Adobe is focused on AI specifically for creativity, its core market.
  • That focus helps Adobe hire top talent, Parasnis says: "If you have [a] passion for AI in computer vision or imaging or video, then guess which company is going to be at the leading edge of that, because that's who we are."
  • Parasnis adds that one of his team's goals in developing AI is to constantly try to one-up Adobe's existing products: "You have to build something that makes today's successful product from Adobe look like it's not needed," he said. 
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Artificial intelligence is the single most profound shift in software in a decade, Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis told Business Insider. He thinks the software giant's approach is different than most other companies trying to build the future AI — and it's that approach that helps it compete for top talent.

"There's a lot of noise right now and overhype around AI," Parasnis said.

In Adobe's view, the company can be successful in AI by focusing on a narrow set of goals, rather than try to outstrip  Microsoft, Google, and others, which have made great strides towards the goal of superpowerful, all-purpose artificial intelligences. He said that rather than compete head-on, Adobe thought "hey, what are the two or three areas where we have decades of expertise?" 

One of those areas was creativity. "We are training our AI to only understand the world of images, videos, designs, animation," he said. "We are not trying to make it a general purpose AI for anything. And so that gives us the chance to go super, super deep," as it did with the new AI-powered Photoshop Camera app that it just released this week.

Parasnis sees this focus as a boon to Adobe, helping it pick and choose its battles in the promising, but competitive, field of AI research. But this strategy is contingent, he said, on Adobe continuing to develop its expertise and its AI software — and, most challenging of all, continuing to find the right talent to build that AI.

The market for top AI talent is extremely crowded and competitive, especially given that Adobe is on the doorstep of companies like Facebook and Google. But Parasnis says that Adobe stays in the mix, in large part because of its focus on using AI for creativity. Any computer scientist interested in fields like using AI for better photo editing will naturally gravitate towards Adobe, he says, thanks to its prominence in that particular market.

"When I'm recruiting talent in AI and if I'm competing with the usual big companies, whether it's Google, Facebook, Microsoft, whoever's trying to recruit the same talent, if he or she is working on generic AI, then we are all on the same level playing field. But if I say, hey, if you have [a] passion for AI in computer vision or imaging or video, then guess which company is going to be at the leading edge of that because that's who we are," Parasnis said. 

'A deep and healthy sense of paranoia'

Parasnis says that a major part of the goal for its AI, which is called Adobe Sensei, is to continually disrupt what the company is already doing. The thinking: If AI really is the major shift that Parasnis and others believe that it is, then it should be able to continually one-up everything Adobe is already doing. And if that's the case, Parasnis says, then Adobe would rather discover the next big thing before somebody else does.

"There's a deep and healthy sense of paranoia that we cannot just say because we are the leaders or we invented this category that we can just now slow down and relax because this is an industry that doesn't respect yesterday's successes as much. You will get disrupted. And so a big focus for us is, can we disrupt ourselves?" Parasnis said. 

He said he tells his emerging products groups and research groups that they have to develop products that make Adobe's current offerings seem irrelevant.

"The mandate I give them is your job is to make our current cash cow products irrelevant, that you have to build something that makes today's successful product from Adobe look like it's not needed," Parasnis said. 

The new Photoshop Camera app, which uses AI effects to overlay colorful, bombastic effects over your photos, is meant to do just that — make Photoshop seem irrelevant, at least for some of the users, some of the times. Parasnis said that Photoshop Camera is just the first a series of AI-first apps.

"AI is going to play [an] extremely central and crucial [role], it already is today," Parasnis said.


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