HP is taking a shot at fusing the physical and digital worlds with an experimental product called “Sprout.”
According to Re/code, Sprout is a large all-in-one Windows PC with a projector and 3D scanner on top. (Interestingly, HP had shipped a printer with a 3D scanner three years ago.) The projector can beam images onto a touch-enabled workspace in front of the screen, while the scanner can capture real-world objects that users can then manipulate in the workspace.
Users will be able to resize images and move them around, Re/code reports, but the actual use cases seem vague. The report claims that businesses could help customers with buying decisions, and that home decorators could the change colors or wallpaper of a scanned room image, but it’s unclear exactly how Sprout’s unique capabilities come into play in those instances. Re/code’s sources say the device will be sold primarily to businesses, but will also be marketed at “prosumers.” Future versions of the device may run Google's Chrome OS instead of Windows.
Still, there’s no word yet on how much Sprout will cost, when it will ship, or what specific software it will work with. We’ll allegedly find out more at an event on October 29, when HP is set to demonstrate several new products.
Why this matters: HP is likely trying to show that it can still be innovative in the PC space, but there’s a difference between blind experimentation and creating new products that actually meet a demand. With Sprout, HP will need to show that it’s committed to the idea with significant software investment and long-term plans to build on the product over time. Otherwise, it’ll just be another one-off project that’s quickly forgotten by the tech world—and by HP itself.