The Future of Customer Experiences

by Digital Europe

Posted on 08-02-2019

EVP and CTO **Abhay Paras­nis **shares his per­spec­tive on the future of cus­tomer expe­ri­ences. This is a revised tran­script of Abhay’s con­ver­sa­tion with Jere­my White, exec­u­tive edi­tor of Wired, at EMEA Summit.

When you started at Adobe you re-architected the cloud platform for the next 10 years to include AR, VR and voice. What technologies are coming right now? Where are we going?

First, it wasn’t just me set­ting the direc­tion for the plat­form. It is an extreme­ly fast-mov­ing indus­try – there isn’t a sin­gle busi­ness that moves like the soft­ware indus­try. You simul­ta­ne­ous­ly need to take a long view of mas­sive tech shifts, and also be nim­ble and hum­ble enough to con­stant­ly adapt. I’m excit­ed about the AI shift – we are just scratch­ing the sur­face. We will look back 10 years from now and see that soft­ware at large was hav­ing its own trans­for­ma­tion. AI, for exam­ple, has the poten­tial to com­plete­ly change the dai­ly lives of mil­lions of people.

The notion of autonomous agents is anoth­er area where we are doing a lot of research. Can you build autonomous agents that will make you more effec­tive in your dai­ly job? The con­ver­gence of hard­ware and soft­ware and the con­ver­gence of chips, all of that is super pow­er­ful. What we are look­ing at is if we can push the IP and mag­ic that we do clos­er to the chip level.

Does it surprise you how few companies are preparing for voice?

A broad­er cat­e­go­ry is nat­ur­al inter­faces – and voice is prob­a­bly the sin­gle most under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed shift in tech­nol­o­gy right now – when a com­put­er can recog­nise inter­ac­tions with humans. Today they are still very prim­i­tive, you have to speak care­ful­ly, and it’s not con­ver­sa­tion­al. We have some­thing in our research labs we’re work­ing on – the cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty of com­put­ers to have a con­ver­sa­tion. Once that clicks, the inter­ac­tion capa­bil­i­ties are going to grow exponentially.

The mouse and click, and then touch to voice, is an even big­ger trans­for­ma­tion. Peo­ple will be gen­uine­ly and pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by voice.

Abhay and Jere­my at EMEA Summit.

You recently launched Adobe Sensei – and have been developing AI since the pioneering days of Photoshop. What were you trying to do? Tell us the history.

What is unique about Adobe is that at our core, we are an engi­neer­ing com­pa­ny. Can we build some­thing that hasn’t been built before? And can it have a sus­tained impact? We had machine learn­ing and AI before peo­ple were even talk­ing about it – fea­tures like con­tent-aware fill are based on some of the most sophis­ti­cat­ed algo­rithms built many years ago. This is a tes­ta­ment to our engi­neer­ing teams that we are look­ing 10–15 years out at solv­ing a problem.

AR and VR further out – can you foresee a time when this will bring us back to creativity, not repetitive tasks?

At Adobe, we talk about the future of dig­i­tal being ana­logue – the human joy of inter­act­ing with the phys­i­cal world. Project Gem­i­ni spent six years in our research lab recre­at­ing the vis­cer­al effect of paint­ing on a can­vas, so the artist can still get that joy. What we are doing with dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy is the cycle back to ana­logue. We use a phrase inter­nal­ly that our job with tech­nol­o­gy is aug­ment­ing and ampli­fy­ing human cre­ativ­i­ty. We tru­ly believe that algo­rithms will nev­er replace the human abil­i­ty to be creative.

How will expectations of the customer experience change?

We are con­stant­ly going to see a rais­ing of the bar when it comes to con­sumer expe­ri­ence. State-of-the-art will be tables stakes. There is a new gen­er­a­tion of users in Chi­na and India skip­ping entire gen­er­a­tions of devices. Things are at a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent lev­el and try­ing to pre­dict with­out get­ting into the minds of the next gen­er­a­tion of users is a failed attempt. Voice will play a huge role.

What is your holy grail – if money and resources were no object – what would you do at Adobe? What do you want to achieve?

I’ll bring it back. At Adobe we gen­uine­ly believe that our mis­sion is to change the world through dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences. One of our core beliefs is that every sin­gle per­son has a sto­ry to tell, and we are build­ing tools that are tru­ly democ­ra­tised. What gets us going is: Can we imag­ine cre­ative tools that allow every sin­gle per­son – regard­less of geog­ra­phy or pur­pose – to tell their sto­ry to the world? That’s what we get up every sin­gle day think­ing about.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Customer Experience, EMEA Summit, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA