Canva boosts AI layer for Magic Studio, as Affinity acquisition reaps rewards - Hindustan Times
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Canva boosts AI layer for Magic Studio, as Affinity acquisition reaps rewards

May 23, 2024 10:04 PM IST

The updates for Magic Studio include Magic Video editing with background voice remover, as well as a new Affinity app that supports Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon ARM- chips for Windows PCs

LOS ANGELES: It was in October when Canva introduced a generative artificial intelligence (AI) focused Magic Studio. The intent, as Melanie Perkins, the co-founder and CEO of Canva, told me at the time was clear. New AI-based tools for image and video edits, presentations, translators, text to image generators and new data privacy options. A lot of it is single click functionality. Take an example of translating a presentation into different languages (more than 100 global languages; including Indian languages such as Hindi), which became a one-click task. No surprise then, that at the company first ever global Canva Create keynote, the company confirms that Magic Studio has been used more than 5 billion times since launch. There’s another set of significant updates, incoming.

Canva made its AI strategy clear with the Magic Studio structure. (Official image)
Canva made its AI strategy clear with the Magic Studio structure. (Official image)

Canva, which made its AI strategy clear with Magic Studio’s structure, is accelerating those attempts. There are interface changes, addition of new features and updates for existing ones, but behind all that an AI underlier that’s seen significant improvement. For instance, Magic Design, the company says, will now be able to generate up to 3 times higher quality presentations because of the improved models that work on a user’s inputs. If video is your focus, the AI Highlights can select and clip a selection of clips from longer videos based on its understanding of what might be exciting or relevant. Enhance Voice can reduce background noise in video files.

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In what the company describes as “supercharged photo editing”, the AI models for the photo editor is more proficient at responding to inputs such as moving, removing or editing any object in an image. Text prompts can be used to generate graphics, icons and illustrations, while business users may be able to take the advantage of using prompts to convert any design into a custom document.

“The final pillar is of course supercharging our Magic Studio. AI is more important than ever and pretty much every part of Magic Studio has had new features added and a brush up,” says Cameron Adams, who is co-founder and Chief Product Officer for Canva.

Canva, Affinity, and two worlds of designing

At Canva Create 2024, the new Affinity v2.5 is conformed. It includes new advanced editing options that further pushes the capabilities envelope for ‘pro’ editing performance. The upgrades include Variable Font support which opens up a new world of typographic design choices for designers, and the addition of a Stroke Width Tool for an on-document way of editing the pressure profile of any curve.

Serif developed the three apps, namely Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher, as cross platform and are available across Apple iPad, Apple Mac, as well as Microsoft Windows computing devices. Affinity apps now also supports ARM64 chips, which means it is already optimized for upcoming Windows PCs, a push we will increasingly witness as the Windows PC ecosystem tries to find a response to the performance and frugality benchmarks set by Apple’s Silicon. Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon X Elite chips, announced earlier this week, are well positioned to lead the chance for Windows PCs, something PC makers are intent to show their support for.

The latest update makes Affinity is the first creative software with end-to-end native ARM support.

“Affinity is hands down the fastest performing creative suite on the market. The team have done an amazing job to build an architecture that really cannot be compared,” says Adams. “The ability to zoom in 50 million percent on an illustration and see no slowdown, is just amazing,” he cites an example.

There is of course the question about Affinity’s competition with Adobe’s equally popular tools too, and whether this acquisition means Affinity will be integrated within Canva’s suite. The company is cognizant to Affinity’s strong community of users, who have over the years, helped shape the specifics of the app. Adams believes that Canva and Affinity are in a way bridging two separate design worlds. “Affinity and Canva intend to make designing easier across the full workflow, and it not about just throwing some files over the fence and hoping that people can use them,” he says.

“We really believe that designers deserve to have alternatives, designers deserve to have really fast tools and designers deserve to have a company that listens to their needs,” Perkins said.

Canva’s approach to privacy

At the core of Magic Studio is extensive AI integration, most of it also available to users who haven’t subscribed to a premium plan. Magic Grab (subject as an editable element, such as for repositioning), Magic Expand (use AI to recover image data from outside a frame), Magic Edit (text prompt to add, change or replace elements) and Magic Switch (auto-translate text on a design or presentation) defines Magic Studio’s core functionality. There’s extensive global language support, and the Canva platform is also proficient in multiple Indian languages including Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, and Telugu. There are more and more third-party apps available, including generative AI tools such as Dall-E, Imagen by Google, MurfAI and Soundraw.

A question therefore does spring to mind – what’s Canva’s approach to data privacy?

At the core of it is Canva Shield for individual and enterprise users. These are a set of controls for opting out of having your data used to improve machine learning and AI models. There are toggles to select between on and off for sharing general usage to improve AI as well as allowing sharing of created or edited content to improve AI.

“We think it’s really important for users to be able to understand where their data is going and to be able to control that. We launched canvas Shield at the end of last year and it covers AI as well as a bunch of other privacy and data settings,” Adams tells HT. “We have given people easy to understand switches in their settings that they can switch on and off if they want to include their data in any AI training that we might do, or they can say, no, I don’t want that,” he adds.

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