Q&A with Adobe Research: Investigating Virtual Reality and PDF
This past summer, Laurel Warrell, a former Adobe Research intern and current Masters of Science candidate at Georgia Tech, worked with Adobe Research Principal Scientist Walter Chang on a PDF-to-VR prototype leveraging a consumer VR device and 360-degree content, proposing a transformation in how people can interact with content otherwise locked away in documents. We asked both a few questions about the project and about the Adobe Research’s collaboration with academic institutions.
Tell us about the PDF-to-VR project. What inspired it?
LAUREL: Today current VR apps are heavy on imagery and visuals, but we tend to forget about the role that text can play. With this project, we asked ourselves: How can PDF documents be experienced using virtual reality? We wanted to flip the script a little, and have people explore content like they would the real world. The final prototype shows the different ways text interaction can enhance a VR content experience.
What is the PDF reading experience like today? How does the PDF-to-VR project change that experience?
LAUREL: Reading PDFs today is much like reading a physical book…but on screen. It’s a very static and linear experience. I thought it would be cool to take advantage of the visual experiences that VR offers. We usually pick up a VR headset to view something that we normally can’t experience like outer space or to view a standard experience in a new way. In this case, we wanted users to feel like they are stepping ‘inside’ a document.
Walter, how much do interns like Laurel contribute to Adobe Research? Laurel, what was it like to intern at Adobe?
WALTER: Adobe has a vibrant and stimulating engineering and PhD research internship program that enables us to compete for the best ideas and talent. We provide a setting where our interns can take big risks and make an impact. 70% of our active research projects have utilized a student collaborator or intern partner. Over the last three years 90% of our technical publications containing new innovative ideas for Adobe originated from research collaborations with universities, students, or both. About half of our researcher hires in the last two years are former interns.
Bottom line is that interns like Laurel make a very significant impact by contributing their own ideas to research projects.
LAUREL: Interning at Adobe is pretty cool. Interns have so many different problem spaces that they are proposing and developing solutions for. Some interns are building hardware by hand, while others are strictly coding. Some are working closely with users to get feedback on products or processes, while others are working directly with Adobe product teams. For these reasons, “boundless” is what comes to mind. I never felt restricted; we are free and encouraged to be inventive and resourceful.
What makes Adobe Research unique?
WALTER: At Adobe Research, our goal is to foster creativity, novel, and strong academic contributions. We have an extensive history of deep academic collaborations. In fact, our researchers host anywhere from one to three PhD interns a year, and a lot of our collaborative research work is published in top peer-reviewed conferences and journals. Our research model blends a focus on extending current technologies, exploring new areas for innovations, and delivering business impact. The work with researchers outside of Adobe definitely supports that model. This formula has resulted in some of our most innovative technologies like Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop CS5 and student work demonstrated at key industry events like Adobe MAX.