What’s next for the Sprout? From 3D printing to accessories, HP explains

HP Sprout interview
Sprout is HP’s vision of the future, one the company hopes may be a seed of transformation for the struggling computer industry as a whole.

At an event in downtown New York City, HP recently announced the system, which melds a computer, camera, projector, and 3D scanner into an unusual looking all-in-one. This system, together with a touch-enabled mat that serves as a virtual work surface, is designed to radically change how people create things. The Sprout also gives users the ability to work closer together to conceive and complete a wide array of projects, whether those folks are 2 feet from each other or 2,000 miles apart.

At the weird product’s debut party, we spoke with Steve Smith — Director of Research and Development for the Sprout program — about what inspired this product, and what it may blossom into.

Digital Trends: What inspired HP to create the Sprout?

“They realized they had hit on something with two screens: a vertical screen and a horizontal canvas with multi-touch.”

Steve Smith: Brad Short (HP Distinguished Technologist, Immersive Computing Platforms) has been working on this concept and refining it for about four years, give or take. It started out with trying to understand what we could do with projection, and what we could do with capture. Eventually, as the team started to use the different form factors and prototypes, they realized they had hit on something with two screens: a vertical screen and a horizontal canvas with multi-touch. The experience just became really immersive.

In terms of the development process, it’s been everywhere from Flash demos and videos to try to understand what’s possible to building hardware and collaborating with companies like Texas Instruments to do projection and optical paths that are really important to the way that Sprout works.

So its been a combination of prototyping in software, prototyping in hardware, and learning until we got to a combination of things that really started to hit home in terms of capability.

What’s available right now, and what upcoming features will we see shortly?

Today we have 3D Snapshot available, which is a one-orientation 3D scan. It’s great for folks that want to do simple, creative things very quickly. Capture 3D objects, and import them into whatever creative application you want to use. That could be Powerpoint, that could be other applications.

HP Sprout interview
3D printed samples from HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for HP/AP images)

In the future, with the full 360 scans, we’ll actually create files that can be printed with 3D printers. So it will be a fully multi-radial scan, fully fused and meshed, and ready for printing, sharing, and pulling into CAD files. It will be much more versatile.

We don’t have a final schedule for that yet, but I would say it’s coming soon.

Where do you see the Sprout being most prevalent? The classroom? Laboratories? With what audience?

Right now we’ve targeted the creatives, and I think we’re gonna get a lot of excitement from art directors and folks like that. I personally am excited about education, remote tutoring, and remote classrooms. Collaboration across geographies for businesses is going to be a very strong use case.

“One of the difficult things to do in engineering, especially on the creative side, is to collaborate across geographies.”

What Sprout apps are coming down the pipeline?

We have a number of first-party apps, which you saw today. We’re hoping that the developer community, once we release the SDK [software development kit], will be excited. We’re excited to learn what apps the development community comes up with, actually.

Do you see the Sprout being popular in fields like engineering and architecture?

Absolutely. One of the difficult things to do in engineering, especially on the creative side, is to collaborate across geographies. Sprout really breaks that barrier. We’re able to work on the same document in real-time across remote geographies. So I think that’s going to be an amazing capability.

Will the Sprout be upgradable? Or launched in more powerful configurations?

We are looking at next-generation versions of Sprout. We haven’t yet decided exactly how configurable we’ll make it. We could be going to future versions of Intel’s high-end processor. We’re looking at GPUs that we have, because that’s central to the experience as well.

What’s Intel’s role in the development of the Sprout?

HP Sprout
With future updates, the Sprout will able to make intricate 3D scans of physical objects.

Intel has been an integral partner. They have some of the 3D technology that’s in the device as well. We use an Intel depth sensor, and their camera system, so they’ve been integral to the product’s capabilities so far.

Are there any accessories that are going to be launched that are specific to the Sprout?

You’ll notice that the touch mat is actually removable. It snaps in and out, and magnetically snaps into place. It’s got a USB interface that the engineers designed that has power capabilities as well. We designed it that way for a reason. We can actually create accessories that would dock right in, either in place of the mat or to augment the mat. There are probably some things to be coming soon there.

What do you envision for the Sprout in the long term?

I think the great thing about Sprout is that it’s a very extensible platform. We’re still learning about everything that we can do. So we’re going to be creating new capabilities over what you saw today. Sometime — probably in the next six months or so –we’ll be introducing a full 360-degree scan capability. We have other things that we can do on the horizontal canvas that I’m not able to talk about right now. We’re going to continue to just break through the digital to physical barrier.

Movies & TV

How VFX magic conjured the fantastic beasts of ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’

Visual effects studio Rodeo FX and VFX supervisor Arnaud Brisebois explain how the colorful creatures and amazing cityscapes were created for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

Grit and gear: How Chris Hershman went from retail clerk to music video director

How did Chris Hershman go from working a music retail job to working with bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot? The music video director and filmmaker talks to us about video, tech, and Nikon's new mirrorless.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.
Computing

Hitting ‘Check for updates’ in Windows 10 opts you into beta releases

Users who are careful about keeping their system updated should watch out -- Microsoft revealed this week that clicking the Check for updates button in Windows can opt you in to testing beta code.