Innovation

Photoshop's new Select Subject feature demonstrates the power and efficiency of AI

Adobe's Sensei AI platform is simplifying Photoshop work, and it's one more sign of the changing computing landscape brought by machine learning.

A new Photoshop Creative Cloud feature previewed by Adobe is sure to please those who spend time masking subjects in digital images.

The feature, called Select Subject, uses machine learning to automatically recognize subjects, both human and animal, and create a layer mask around them automatically. It's not flawless, but it does take a lot of the tedium out of a task many Photoshop users perform regularly.

Select Subject is powered by Sensei, Adobe's AI platform. It's the latest use of machine learning to identify objects, but it goes one step further by intelligently selecting them from the background, even when there's a lot of detail behind them that a tool like Smart Select would miss.

This forthcoming feature of Photoshop is doing something machine learning aficionados have long touted as its biggest benefit: streamlining software and eliminating manual tasks. It's just one more way that AI is transforming software to benefit everyone.

Subject selection, now smarter than ever

No one who has used Photoshop to create a mask around a subject will say it's an easy task. It's tedious, getting everything right is incredibly tricky, and there's a lot of time spent afterward correcting what did—or didn't—get selected.

SEE: How Adobe proved me wrong about AI in photography (TechRepublic)

The automatic tools in Photoshop are good, but they're not as good as what machine learning can do with Select Subject. From the Select and Mask menu it's a single click to have Sensei determine who the focus of a picture is and create a mask around them. It even does multiple subjects without skipping a beat, at least in Adobe's demo video.

There isn't a release date for this new tool yet, but when it arrives it will be in the form of a Creative Cloud update.

AI: Changing the efficiency game

The promises of AI center on making things easier. Like mechanical automation before it, AI and machine learning can abstract simple, repetitive tasks away from us humans, allowing us to focus our energy on bigger things.

SImple uses of machine learning, like Select Subject, might not seem it, but they are a window into the future of the technology. AI is already able to identify objects and recognize speech with greater efficiency than humans, which could transform the world by even eliminating some of the most high-paying jobs in the medical field.

SEE: AI and the Future of Business (ZDNet special feature)

We humans are going to have to adapt to AI's potential, which is shown again and again not to be the decision making and thinking robots predicted by science fiction, but is more the tool of the next big industrial revolution. It will simplify software, eliminate menial work, and make computing more invisible.

Jobs will change, software will change, and the world will transform, all because of simple things like Photoshop's ability to better recognize and mask photo subjects.

photoshop-select-subject.png
Image: Adobe

Also see

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox