Facebook today announced that Adobe—the company behind industry-leading creative tools like Photoshop, Premiere, and Substance—has acquired Oculus Medium, the company’s VR sculpting tool.

Oculus Medium launched back in 2016 alongside the company’s Touch motion controllers, and began as an exploration of how VR could be useful beyond gaming and entertainment.

3D modeling on a computer is notoriously abstract compared to working with a physical medium; with VR’s unique, one-to-one perspective and input, Oculus set out to make a ‘sculpting’ tool which would feel more like working with clay in the real world than drawing primitive shapes and vertices with a mouse.

At launch Medium included a range of tools for making and forming 3D volumes. Models could also be ‘painted’ with spray paint-like control. The app also supported exporting of models so that they could be refined in other common 3D modeling and texturing tools, and ultimately used in production projects like games and films. Oculus continued to expand the app as VR’s potential for this sort of modeling work became increasingly clear. A Medium ‘2.0’ update launched in 2018, overhauling performance, UI, and tools.

Today Facebook announced that Adobe has acquired Medium; the price of the acquisition was not disclosed. Adobe is promising “continuity in the way [existing Medium users] access and experience the tool;” it remains available on the Oculus Store and will continue to be free for new activations of Oculus Touch.

What Will Happen to Medium Next?

Adobe says it “can’t wait to work with this community to keep Medium growing and improving,” so at least outwardly, the company is signaling that this isn’t a mere talent acquisition which would threaten to deprecate Medium and absorb its developers into other Adobe projects. Rather, Adobe says it plans to align the Medium team with its Substance team to “work together on the next generation of 3D tools” (Substance is a  3D tool widely used by game developers, which itself was acquired by Adobe in early 2019). This makes it sounds like Adobe wants to make Medium’s functionality part of the company’s broader 3D modeling offerings.

In the announcement shared by Oculus, the Medium team is calling this “a new chapter” for the tool, and says that users should “stay tuned for more features, improvements, and other developments coming from Adobe in 2020 as Medium continues to evolve.”

Who Wins?

At least from the outside, this actually looks like a win-win-win for Facebook, Medium, and Adobe. Medium has demonstrated itself as a unique and powerful creative tool, but this kind of product is quite far removed from Facebook’s core business; Medium‘s ultimate potential may have been stifled by a lack of interest from the parent company, and in a worst-case scenario, Mediumlike Oculus Story Studio—might have been wound down and left to fade from existence. Rather than let that happen, Facebook found a way to let the project go without killing it outright.

Adobe’s entire business, on the other hand, is about making tools which empower artists and creators to produce great works. While the company’s foundation is in photography, videography, and print, in recent years it has clearly recognized opportunities in the 3D realm and has worked to aggressively expanded in that direction by building new tools—like Dimensions and Aero—and making acquisitions of companies like Mixamo, Allegorithmic (Substance), and now Medium. Under Adobe, Medium has a home where it could reach its true potential—becoming a core part of the 3D production pipeline—rather than a niche VR app.

What About Quill?

The news of this acquisition can’t help but turn eyes toward Quill, another Facebook-owned VR art tool with origins very similar to Medium.

Though they seem similar on the surface, Medium focuses primarily on a clay-like sculpting approach to 3D modeling while Quill is borrows more from the art of illustration, painting, and animation (even though it’s ultimately a 3D tool).

Oculus Artist's 'Quill' Shorts Show the Incredible Potential of Illustrating & Animating in VR

Quill was not mentioned in today’s announcement of Medium’s acquisition, but it’s hard to imagine that Quill isn’t in a similar position with regards to Facebook (a company which doesn’t seem to have a core business interest in helping Quill reach its ultimate potential as a powerful creative tool). If anything, the Medium acquisition seems to set the stage for some serious discussions about the future of Quill, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar spin-out of the tool and team in 2020.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Amazing news, Adobe is the right company to transform this tool in something all creatives will love. The true problem may be if it will remain free forever…

    • Darwinian

      This is such a contradictory two-faced comment.

    • JeffNik

      I spend ALOT of time in Medium – I love it. My first thought was similar to yours – Adobe seems like the right company to take this over. But thinking a little further about the fact that Facebook is letting it go…I’m sure the program is too computationally intensive to run on the Quest, so, to me, it’s further indication that Facebook is abandoning the Rift S and PC based headsets.

      • Adobe will make it run on the quest if it sells enough units. Adobe acquiring something is all about integration and support. There is a chance that medium will not in anyway receive new features or may go into a paid model but what is 100% sure is that it will have integration with other adobe software and that it will support more platforms. That’s the main thing Adobe is interested in with all of its past purchases. They barely do feature updates they just integrate more and more software into their cloud eco system so people are force to buy into it. In their view features are irrelevant when integration is so simple as yo can simply use a different software from their product line that has the feature the software you are using is lacking. They own so much software that one of their software in their cloud subscription is bound to have the feature you are looking for.

      • JakeDunnegan

        uh, what? You do know they funded MASSIVE AAA games for the Oculus, right? (Stormland, Asgard’s Wrath). Until you can slap 500GB of space easily into a headset (to say nothing of the computational power of a 6GB GPU and similar chipset) – there’s no way they could abandon the PC. That’s five-eight years off, if it’s a day.

  • sfmike

    Have no fear, there is no question that Adobe will monetize Medium as part of their cloud subscription package. The days of free access will some come to an end and I guess that’s better than having it dumped by FB.

  • Adobe doesn’t do free for creatives…….ever.

  • Foreign Devil

    I didn’t realize Adobe owns Substance now. I’d rather Autodesk have acquired Medium as they are a leader in 3D production. . not Adobe. Oh well better somebody acquire and try to make “pro” level VR sculpting tools (and invent a better hardware controller for sculpting while they are at it).

    • RockstarRepublic

      They won’t end up making anything truly “pro”. Most likely they do with all their acquisitions, slap their branding on it and then hide it behind a subscription service.

  • arczi79

    Very bad news for VR. FB made extremely bad move :(

  • sebrk

    It’s good that there are plenty of very good alternatives. Adobe will for sure make this part of their creative cloud which every artist on earth hates. Cheers Adobe!

  • Another funny thing, unlike Rift owners, who got lots of good games for free at launch, the only two free pieces of software Rift S owners get a prompt to install was Medium and Quill… so are Rift S owners losing one of their free programs? Rift S is getting hit from every angle, sheesh.

    • care package

      Can’t really complain about NOT getting free shit.

  • Bassem B.

    Oh no, this is horrible news… I would hate to have Medium locked behind an Adobe subscription, or left to stagnate while new features get added to whatever VR endeavour Adobe sucks out of the Medium team.
    One possible positive would be Medium becoming available and customised for non-Oculus headsets. As a Vive user who uses Medium thru Revive, it would be nice to have native Vive controls and compatibility, but Medium maintaining its autonomy is more important.