HP's 3D Future: Sprout Visual Tour - InformationWeek

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10/31/2014
10:46 AM
Thomas Claburn
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HP's 3D Future: Sprout Visual Tour

Take a look at HP's unusual "immersive PC," Sprout, and Multi Jet Fusion, a bold foray into 3D hardware.
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HP on Wednesday looked to its past to secure its future.

At time when most of the tech industry is focused on mobile devices, and most of the industry's innovation seems to appear first on Kickstarter, HP introduced a novel desktop computer it calls Sprout and a 3D printer called the HP Multi Jet Fusion.

Sprout by HP is an odd hybrid, combining a touchscreen desktop PC with HP's Illuminator -- a downward-facing projector combined with motion-sensing cameras -- and an input mat. It's designed to capture objects and render them in 2D or 3D, so they can be manipulated in design, communication, and entertainment applications.

The HP Multi Jet Fusion is as much a roadmap as an actual product. Slated for delivery next year, it's HP's attempt to turn its 2D printing expertise into an asset for the emerging age of 3D rapid prototyping. If it fulfills its promise of "breakthrough economics" and facility with multiple materials, HP could find itself leading a desktop manufacturing revolution that rivals the significance of the desktop publishing revolution in the late 1980s.

On the surface, the two products have only minimal synergy. Sprout by HP is aimed at the consumer and education markets, while the HP Multi Jet Fusion is a business product. But both are focused on 3D content creation. Sprout represents the beginning of the 3D printing chain, and the HP Multi Jet Fusion represents the end.

Why 3D printing? Because 2D printing, as CEO Meg Whitman put it two years ago, "has been the lifeblood of HP." Among its various technological competencies, printing has been the company's cash cow. Or so it was, back when people printed everything on paper. Still, it could be worth revisiting in 3D.

Maybe 3D printing will do for HP what layoffs won't, and return the company to a position of technological leadership and revenue growth. Maybe.

Sprout is a gamble. It's such an unusual device that it could easily go unappreciated. As we saw with Windows 8, novel interface conventions may be resisted. Sprout's future will depend on compelling applications that make use of its unique content acquisition and manipulation capabilities. HP is trying to convince developers to create applications for Sprout and to sell those applications in its own app store. It could work, but it's far from obvious that it will.

The HP Multi Jet Fusion is a gamble too. HP wants to deliver a device that is far more economical and functional than existing 3D printing systems. Right now, 3D printing can produce amazing sculpture and jewelry, but it's not ideal for the economical, large-scale manufacturing of sophisticated products, particularly if those products require multiple materials, working circuitry, or moving parts. That may not be the case forever, and if HP can deliver the technology to print complex, functional objects affordably, the company will have the opportunity to rise again.

Here's a look at HP's latest hardware.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 8:04:37 PM
Needed: 3D auto parts
I think HP is onto something with the Multi Jet Fusion. A simple example: an auto repair shop needs an odd part for a make, whose parts it doesn't stock. Instead of setting up a delivery, it gets a prescription for what metals it needs to stock its 3D printer with and a 3D diagram of the part. The printer goes to work and the car is repaired on the day it's brought in, no delays, no problem. A particular metal might need to be delivered from a nearby distributor, but not the finished part. The finished part is delivered electronically.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 7:51:37 AM
Re: Sprout
This looks cool and it reminds me about Intel's Perceptual Computing

Yes, you're right. It does look like Perceptual Computing, but according of what I read, it has been replaced by the new Intel RealSense. Pretty amazing as well.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/2/2014 | 9:26:22 PM
Re: Sprout
This looks cool and it reminds me about Intel's Perceptual Computing. However, I will still watch it out for sometime instead of buying one. At this moment I do not have work item that demands this super capability yet.:-)
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:22:13 AM
Re: App possibilities
@Thomas Claburn,interesting point and I could not agree more... it would make great sense... as to capture more of the market... while upselling parts...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:20:08 AM
Re: Sprout
@Sprout  same here, I would buy it... for day to day use but my cio have other ideas for our family finances...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:18:28 AM
Re: App possibilities
Laurianne could not agree more... I would like to say - HP does create interesting products and if using right marketing and hype... could give good run for it money to Apple and Microsoft... and other pc makers... but will HP do it???
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:14:58 AM
Re: Not a bad move after the break up
@Michael Endler I still remember days when HP trying to enter PDA market and created perfect phone pda Ipaq H5550 well ahead of it time... but after drop it... I keep using my Ipaq H5550 until end of 2013... HP could create perfect product... but what after... like Web OS on HP Touchpad....

it not like Apple keep using and reusing same idea over and over again riding wave...

I could be wrong... but history will tell :)
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:08:39 AM
Re: App possibilities
@Lorna Garey interesting idea and point... how I see it... we are living during new tech. revolution... and in few years we gonna open Paradigm doors... - how I see it...
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2014 | 4:33:38 PM
Sprout
The HP Sprout looks like an amazing machine. It's already on sale for almost 2 grand. Not bad for people who really need something like that.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 4:26:07 PM
Re: App possibilities
Maybe the focus and motion detection become difficult if the Illuminator is mounted at different distances, which would happen with peripherals on varied computer models. I suppose there's also some advantage to be able to guarantee certain hardware capabilities to developers writing Sprout apps.
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