I recently got the opportunity to sit down with Avi Muchnick and Michael Galpert, part of the team behind Worth1000, a company that has generated a lot of buzz around it's as-yet-unreleased Aviary suite (I've got a big screenshot gallery here). Aviary is a collection of design tools aimed at the hobbyist market. At first glance, the tools they've created look a lot like competitors to things Adobe has. There is a photo editor (Phoenix), a vector editor (Raven), a pattern generator (Peacock), and a 3D Modeler (Hummingbird) among many others. But after talking with Avi and Michael, I don't think Aviary is a competitor to Adobe at all and is actually an interesting new concept for designers. The full review after the jump.
I first became interested in Aviary when I found out that all of their tools were built using Flex. Having seen the demo it's even more impressive than I thought it would be. These guys, who come from a design background, have worked with some of the best Flex developers out there to create a powerful set of tools. But while the tools themselves are powerful the best thing about this idea is the community they're creating. At its core, Aviary is a platform and a marketplace. All the tools are web-based, and you will be able to publish your creations to the marketplace. You can set restrictions and prices on the things you create and then allow other artists to use them within those requirements. That community atmosphere combined with the tools is going to be a haven for designers. The low barrier to entry means that we'll hopefully see a lot of new designers jump in and take part.
Phoenix - Image editor (Gallery images)
The flagship product is Phoenix, the image editor that looks and feels a lot like Photoshop. The work they've done is impressive. It feels much more like Photoshop than some of the other online image editors out there and has a number of powerful features you'd expect. It has layers, brushes that you can customize as well as a good number of filters that make manipulating photos easy. One of my favorite features is the clone tool that some of you may be familiar with in Photoshop. They've got that functionality so you can clone parts of a picture using your selected brush. The features are very robust and tie nicely back to Photoshop so that it would be easy for someone to jump from Aviary to Photoshop as their needs change.
Peacock - Computer algorhythm-based pattern generator (Gallery images)
This is my favorite application out of all of them because it allows you to create backgrounds and patterns that are really fun. Some of this pattern functionality is built into Photoshop, but Peacock focuses on it and does a very good job. You can start with clouds or some other texture and then manipulate the colors, and do things like blurring or tiling. It uses the same layer model as Phoenix which makes it very easy to hide a layer effect and really customize a pattern. Because of the platform-nature of Aviary, you can take these assets and share them across the other products.
Hummingbird - 3D Modeler and skinner (Gallery images)
When I heard about the 3D Modeler built in Flex I didn't believe it would be powerful or performant, but I was wrong. They've created a genuine 3D tool that obviously won't replace the big guys, but as a free tool provides a ton of functionality and a great way to get into 3D modeling easily and cheaply. The interface is clean and allows you to import 3D models or create them from primitives. You can then manipulate the polygons and models by smoothing them out, dragging different polygons and skinning them. As the suite gets larger, it's going to be very cool to see the 3D assets move between tools.
I'm really excited about Aviary. I think it's going to be a great thing for the design community and the platform nature lends itself to an open community. Having the tools as an anchor should attract a lot of people and be a huge boon to the design world. These guys have built a great example of an RIA and are showing the world what the new generation of software is going to look like. You can sign up right now to be a part of the beta program when it launches. Some limited invites are going out Tuesday for Phoenix and I'm sure more reviews will pop up.