HP’s rumored 'Sprout PC' sure sounds similar to this oddball printer from 2011

hp topshot laserjet pro m275 crazy crab on platen 5232644
Image: Melissa Riofrio

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It was a scanner on a stick that could take 3D-like images of objects. It sat atop a printer that went to market three years ago. And it came to mind immediately when I heard of the so-called Sprout PC, which Recode is saying HP will announce next week.

According to a Tuesday Recode story, “The [Sprout] combines a large flat-screen display…with a flat touch-enabled work surface and an overhead assembly that combines a projector and a 3-D scanner.”

If Recode’s report is real, the Sprout is conceptually similar to the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275, a printer I tested for one month for a 2011 review. It has a scanner on an arm that rises about 8.5 inches above a flat “capture stage” on top of the printer. Here’s what it looks like.

hp topshot laserjet pro m275 nov 2011 Image: Robert Cardin

The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 has a special scanner for taking images of small three-dimensional objects.

As I explained in my 2011 coverage, you can place a small, three-dimensional object on the capture stage, and the TopShot's camera will take multiple images of it. Proprietary software then creates a composite of those images that looks more three-dimensional than a single image would.

hp topshot laserjet pro m275 overview 5232513 Image: Melissa Riofrio

The "capture stage" on top of the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 can easily accommodate small objects like this pear.

I was impressed by the scanner’s ability to create a 3D-like image. Here I scanned a pear and compared the real thing to its 3D-scanned image, printed from the TopShot LaserJet Pro M275.

hp topshot laserjet pro m275 real and printed pear 5232505 Image: Melissa Riofrio

The real pear (left), and its scanned doppelganger, rendered using selected bits of six different images by HP's TopShot LaserJet Pro M275.

I tried the same trick with a handy knickknack that should be familiar to long-time San Francisco Giants fans. Anyone else remember Crazy Crab?

hp topshot lj pro m275 crazy crab scan from platen 5232648 Image: Melissa Riofrio

Crabs are kind of flat, but Crazy Crab's about as 3D as he can get in this composite image created by HP's TopShot LaserJet Pro M275.

According to Recode, HP’s Sprout will be able to do much more than scan. It’ll have an overhead projector that can beam images onto a special work surface for editing via touch.

Whether HP’s Sprout will appeal to image-oriented businesses and “prosumers,” as Recode described the target market, remains to be seen. But if it’s at all related to this long-ago printer, the addition of a projector, image manipulation and touch capabilities will make a cool technology even cooler.

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