Keep an eye on the HP Sprout

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

We’re in an industry that’s full of exciting innovations, but it’s been a while since we’ve had something that could really be called a game changer.

Keep an eye on the HP Sprout

Each year, we see vendors launch a raft of offerings at shows such as CES, E3, and Siggraph where they show off concept designs to gauge consumer reaction. But rarely do these products actually get launched.

One piece of kit I spotted a while back was the HP Sprout. Early demonstrations and videos highlighted a "game changing" product that surely couldn't deliver on all of its promises?

Well the product is here and it's shipping. And I'm glad to say that the first generation has exceeded my expectations - for the money it's great! Client demos have been fantastic and we’re fast building up interest in this new platform.

So, what is a Sprout and what actually makes it a game changer?

Essentially, the Sprout provides a truly integrated desktop 3D scanning solution, with 2D and 3D object capture and a variety of 3D printing options. HP have taken an all-in-one 23” HD monitor with built-in PC and coupled this with a projector, their Illuminator 3D camera that infers depth and human motion, and a pressure-sensitive touch mat.

Users can simply grab an object from the real world, place it underneath the camera, have it scanned in 3D, then import it into their application of choice as a full 3D modelled OBJ file. 

Once the model has been imported you can make complex edits in an intuitive way using the touch interfaces. Once you’re happy simply send your object to print as a 3D model. A short while later it’s live, it's real, it's actually in your hands - it's now in the physical world. You made it. You actually did! 

HP have put a lot of thought into the user interface by providing full control via both the touch display screen and the 20-point capacitive touch mat. This unique arrangement transforms your desk into a digital-physical workspace, which HP are calling “blended reality”.

The pressure sensitive mat has been implemented very well. Users can draw directly onto the mat itself using the supplied Adonit Jot Pro Stylus – potentially replacing the need for a tablet, for example.

Watching the whole process from A to Z is amazing, and when you consider how much HP have achieved with this first generation product the future for this technology is looking promising.

Of course there will be a natural evolution of the product as it gets more powerful with each new generation of processors, cameras, and so on. More importantly, HP have been smart in releasing a gamut of development tools like SDKs and emulators to help developers take advantage of the imaging technology.

The apps already available include advanced screen sharing, scanning, and stop motion animation options, showing that there are some genuine use cases already. And, of course, HP is a printing giant, so as soon as they launch their much-anticipated 3D printers the Sprout's technologies will become even more useful.

It’s early days yet, but I predict that the digital-physical workspace is going to be the next major game changer. The Sprout is showing its first shoots.

For a demo of the HP Sprout contact Neil Kalsi.