Wacom's investors selling off shares. Why?

I just had a look through the Wacom financial disclosures/investment newsletter.

Dry reading, to be certain, but nerds gotta nerd…

So, it looks like a couple of their biggest shareholders are scaling back. There’s a whole legal process involved which requires public disclosure. (Is this just for Japan? I can’t recall seeing Nike or Microsoft posting this kind of stuff. There’s a good chance they do and I simply don’t care enough about other companies to go look. -But it definitely doesn’t seem likely that such info is right there on their main websites. Japan gotta Japan…? I love many aspects of Japanese thinking.)

Anyway, my first thought, (which may be entirely an erroneous leaping to judgement) was, “Ahhh. A.I. is tweaking everybody’s worry nerve. How much cash is there going to be in the art tool business when the New Digital Overlords are going to be wiping out many formerly human-centric graphics creation jobs? Maybe we’d better divest now while the stock is still high…”



Wacom digitizers are popular in the manga and anime creators world and there is a lot of talk about moving over to AI for creation. Maybe that has the investors spooked?

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Yeah, that was my thought.

I’ve been mucking around with AI graphics generators, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that there are many instances where having a Wacom style tablet is extremely useful.

So…, one of the things you can do with Stable Diffusion is to just take away the pencil and draw what you want. “No, you stupid droid. Like THIS.”

Very often that’s all you need to get the A.I. pointed in the right direction. Then you can sit back and let it do the heavy lifting for you. Until they get confused again and fail to understand what you want. You can crank out excellent pictures at a much faster rate than drawing/painting them yourself, but the input headache of managing a dumb droid is still nothing to sneeze at.

Being able to show a sketch to the robot cuts out a lot of meandering steps. Visual communication works for a reason. -A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, you can actually count the words you’re saving. You can certainly count the minutes and hours.

So having some art skills and the ability to quickly translate that into something the droid can see is very useful. I doubt drawing tablets are going to become obsolete, but I also doubt the average person is going to bother investing in one, especially if they never learned to draw in the first place. You can get pretty far with just words.

“Oh! That’s better than what I had in mind. Let’s print that in the brochure!”

I suspect we are living through the very height of the golden age for graphics tablets. I can see them becoming increasingly niche, (more than they already are!), and much more expensive as demand drops.

I was talking to a Dad the other day, and he was saying that his boys are using AI every day. They’re making a computer game, and you can get a droid to code for you, create graphics, the whole bit.

Kids are already taking up the mantle and running with it.


I don’t think it’s a belief that AI will make art products obsolete. And really, they’ve always been a niche market (how many serious or pro artists are there relative to the gen pop). So that’s not an issue. But there are competitive pressures on Wacom from a variety of other makers whose quality and feature set is certainly on the rise. Meanwhile, Wacom may be falling into that trap of not innovating while relying on the comforts of once strong marketshare. They’ve also downsized in the past year+, including marketing and review programs cutbacks. Honestly, I worry their direction is floundering.


No, but neither do they need to be very advanced anymore. Any third tier Chinese electronic junkyard can put them together. Or that is what the investors seem to be thinking.


AI and everyone seems to have caught up to them in the last few years/months, at first it was really only apple that pretty much matched them quality wise but the chinese brands are preeettty much there too now and even MS got the surface pen almost there too…

But yeah it’s AI

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I have wondered over the past couple of years what Wacom could reasonably do wrt innovation.

The best I can come up with is, “Thinner and less computer.”

I’d like to see e-ink screen tech developed to the point where I’m drawing on a sheet of digital paper with no fan noise, no heat, and perhaps not even a special stylus. Just pick up a stick of your choosing and create wonders.

But I’m not sure Wacom is in a position to do any of that. Tech development of that sort isn’t really in their ballpark. They’d have to wait for graphene science and other engineering monoliths to perform the R&D and scaling up for manufacturing, putting reliable, affordable stock items on the shelf so little players can assemble their own products with…, off the shelf tech. -Bearing in mind that Wacom’s core invention was a clever antenna feedback system which anybody could reasonably have developed in a garage lab, (and perhaps even did!).

Though…, they did have the gumption to produce those stand-alone tablets a few years back, which went over not without some issues, but it was an exciting time which kept them in the minds of the artist-public as leading innovators.

But right now, their current flagships are quite excellent. Where do they go from here? “Thinner and Quieter” might keep people engaged and excited, but I can get a Samsung 2-in-1 laptop with a large, thin screen I can draw on, (with a whole cutting edge laptop computer attached to it), all for a price similar to a big 'ol Cintiq…

And bearing in mind that a lot of bulk buying customers were from the Hollywood animation scene.

A friend on FB shared a version of Akira with me, re-mastered for playing on smart phones not held sideways. The original movie format had another 70% (or so) image data added to it, top and bottom, to fill out the dead space. All generated with AI. I wonder if you’ll still need 100 animators outfitted with 100 Cintiqs when AI is doing so much more of the heavy lifting…? (I don’t really wonder that. The answer is: “No.”).

I’m still of the opinion, and even the vaguest of hopes, that they work with Nintendo.

I think it would be a fantastic combination and in a direction Nintendo have dabbled with a lot, just only with resistive digitisers All those young people to get hooked!

But unless Nintendo break habit, and they aren’t already working together, that ship has sailed. Unless Nintendo see the need for a more hardware variation.

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In your opinion what is the artist consensus of ‘AI churn, edit it out in photoshop later’? I’ve been mulling over that question for a long LONG time. And I haven’t seriously drawn anything in years.

I’ve not talked to a lot of other artists in a while, but my impression is that most of them are either behind the curve, still in the Denial/Anger stage, while others are jumping in with both feet. -Some of the guys who have YouTube channels employ Midjourney for thumbnail art; through that application alone, you know they’ve been on-boarded with the Ai wagon at least to a degree, are open to playing with it. It’s a useful tool. (Though, Midjourney art all looks like Midjourney art, to my eye. I instinctively turn my nose up at it, “Bah. That’s just Ai crap.”)

It’s the Instagram social justice crowd who hatehatehate Ai art. Partly, I think, because they were all soulless surface-shiny artists to begin with, (where Ai excels), making them more obsolete than most…, and partly because Instagram is one of the spawning vats where Junior High cancel pig gossip foments, and this is just the latest, convenient psychopathic crusade.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with Stable Diffusion, (even bought a 24Gb RTX graphics card off eBay to play with), and it’s seriously cool technology, but not nearly as Get-Rich-Quick as people think. I’m coming to the conclusion that it really is just another productivity tool, albeit a super-charged one.

Though…, there’s another element to it…

I strongly suspect it was also partly created for the purpose of sucking creative soul juice out of people. It takes a HUGE amount of attention energy to get it to do what you want. It makes great stuff, but it can’t read your thoughts and getting it close to what you’re after is almost impossible. You either abandon your vision and go with what it kicks out, (which is essentially the death of the artist), or you fight until you’re blue and eventually have to draw a bunch of it yourself. Woe unto those young kids who feel defeated from the start and never bother learning how to draw as a result. I think that’s a real possibility.

Right now, it turns the otherwise effective artist into a frustrated client of a severely retarded, but technically skilled graphic designer.

But the science is super interesting; the idea is that there are an infinite number of images possible in a field of noise, including all the images you want. And through a sort of backwards infinite probability math, you collapse the wave function into a particle reality. It’s the double slit experiment on steroids. -Plus, where lasers and photon detectors end, with generative Ai, you get a sort of control dial. -That is, you start and stop the process of wave collapse, doing it in stages, nudging it along the way to get the dart in flight to land close-ish to where you want it to go.

If somebody described it to me in a science fiction novel, I’d think, “Ha! That’s such an elegant, fun idea, great for a story, but totally unrealistic. -Like Jules Verne’s gravity blocking plates, (which propelled his character’s trip to the moon).” Except, gosh darn if it doesn’t actually work!

Its most useful application right now is if you draw a rough image with most of what you want done, and present that as the starting point, (the ‘Latent’ image), it’ll clean it up all nice and shiny for you. The more work you put in, the better the result.

The professional artist with years of practice is going to have an edge over the unskilled user. But it’s still work, and still frustrating AF. It’s still in the novelty toy box for me. My real drawing work is still all done by hand. Computers are waaaay too dumb to draw anything even close to what I do in even the simplest comics panel. -But I’m coding a kind of information into my images which is quite beyond the ken of our emerging silicone overlords, and I suspect, always will be.

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I can’t comment on AI in art… so maybe this comment if off topic here… but if I understand correctly, the current crop of AI apps require a fair amount of user training before they will produce outputs that are truly relevant (and useful). I think that @thatcomicsguy is saying the same thing in so many words.

I was recently surprised to discover that my son routinely uses AI for various softwaring tasks including fashioning an electronic Valentine’s Day gift for his wife! He also spoke about the need to train his custom AI and to provide explicit (and sometimes extensive) instructions in order to obtain a reasonable result. But now that he’s past that phase, the AI is apparently performing well. He says that he can now accomplish things in a few hours that used to take him tedious days.

My point is that, like most tools, AI isn’t suitable for everything and where it is, it takes time to set up the way you want it. But once done, it can be a real time saver. It’s clear that coding is easier for today’s apps to render satisfactorily. And it also appears that far more sophisticated tasks, like art, are going to take a while…

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