HP's Sprout: The Soul Of A New Immersive Computing Machine

Aiming To Redefine The Computing Experience

Hewlett-Packard Wednesday released Sprout, an ambitious bid to redefine the computing experience with a new 3-D workspace for everyone from kids to creative professionals. The new $1,899 "immersive computer" combines a 20-inch diagonal touch-enabled mat, a 23-inch touch-enabled flat-screen display, a high-resolution camera, projector, depth sensor and 3-D scanner. More than four years in development among a group of 250 HP employees working on the ultra-secret project, Sprout allows users to create everything from artwork to innovative new product designs.

A 3-D World Comes To Life

The biggest breakthrough with Sprout is a completely new way of creating in a 3-D workspace. Sprout combines native 3-D scanning with an Intel RealSense 3-D camera for instant capture of 3-D/2-D images and then allows users to manipulate those images in an innovative 3-D touch-enabled mat workspace. The workspace allows users to do everything from artwork to creative industrial design. Among the software components are 3-D Snapshot and Sprout Workspace, where users can capture and manipulate objects.

Bringing Apple Magic To HP

Fifteen-year Apple veteran Eric Monsef, a former Apple engineering executive who joined HP in February, is leading the Sprout charge. Monsef said only HP has the unique intellectual property to bring the Sprout breakthrough to market. "HP has a unique set of skills in many different disciplines from hardware to software to firmware and computer vision," said the HP vice president. "I don't know that anybody other than HP could pull this off."

An HP Inventor's Dream Come True

Brad Short (pictured), a 20-year HP veteran and a distinguished technologist in immersive computing platforms, had the initial idea for Sprout five years ago and worked on the project by himself in an HP lab. One year after the initial idea, HP green-lighted the project. Louis Kim, HP vice president of Sprout product marketing, credits Short and the 250-member development team -- aided by another 250 HPers throughout the company -- with a breakthrough that only HP could deliver. "Other PC companies don’t have the scanning, imaging and printing legacy that HP has," he said. "Only HP could have brought that intellectual property and invention to PCs to create something completely new."

The Bits And Bytes Of Sprout

HP said Sprout represents a state-of-the-art computing platform. The 33.7-pound system is powered by Intel's fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4790S processor running Windows 8.1 and includes an HP DLP projector, a high-resolution camera, Intel RealSense 3-D camera, and an LED desk lamp. It comes with 8 GB of PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 SDRAM memory, a 1-TB SATA 6G solid-state hybrid drive with 8 GB of flash acceleration cache, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 745A with 2 GB of DDR 3 dedicated memory. "This is a true state-of-the-art machine," said Monsef. "It is completely future-proof."

HP Targets Consumers With Sprout

HP is targeting consumers to make sure that it stays grounded in a "first-person relationship" with customers as it moves to drive compelling ease of use with a new generation of Sprout applications, said Monsef. "Unleashing creativity" among consumers HP’s mantra, he said. "We have done a lot of use testing with kids, adults, moms and dads and everybody unanimously comes back saying the same thing: 'Finally, I have an experience where I feel like I can express myself,’ " he said. "There is a lot of pent-up demand for a platform that truly enables creativity like never before."

Democratizing Creativity

HP’s Kim said Sprout is "democratizing creativity," citing a 3-year-old who instantly started creating a collage with the system without any guidance, digital artist Joshua Davis, and a professional designer using Sprout as a way to "mash things up quickly." "People in creative industries like design, engineering and architecture" are crediting Sprout with saving them hours and hours of time, said Kim.

A New Era of Immersive Computing Applications

HP is promising a new era of immersive applications with Sprout. The company is creating a Sprout Marketplace with a growing number of applications designed to take advantage of Sprout's 3-D workspace. What's more, HP is releasing a Sprout software development kit. Among the third-party applications being brought to market are Dreamworks Animation/Story Producer, Legacy Games/Crayola Color Draw & Sing, Skype Modern App, Cyberlink PowerDirector, Martha Stewart Craft Studio/Creative App Framework, Microsoft Office, Revel Software Pianotime, Behemoth Castle Crashers and Frozenbyte/Trine 2.

Getting Hands-On With Sprout

Sprout will be available on preorder from HP.com beginning Oct. 29 and then will be available from select retailers including Best Buy, Microsoft retail stores, B&H Photo Video Pro Audio stores in New York, and the Home Shopping Network. HP solution providers are anxious to bring the new platform to design professionals who in some cases were shelling out as much as $10,000 for workstations with AutoCAD to do design. "We call this creativity for the rest of us," said Monsef. "You don't need complex tools and software. We are making it very easy for you to express yourself."

HP Partners Praise Innovation Offensive

HP solution provider partners say they are anxious to bring Sprout to creative professionals and commercial customers. "HP Sprout is the next big leap in computing; it is like the new-age Play-Doh," said Kelly Ireland, founder and CEO of CB Technologies, a Kirkland, Wash.-based HP Platinum partner that sells the complete HP portfolio from printing and personal systems to enterprise products. "We are really looking forward to bringing commercial customers this kind of innovation. This is exactly what [Bill] Hewlett and [Dave] Packard started out doing -- creating the next great thing. And it's what HP has returned to under [HP CEO] Meg [Whitman]."

Sprout: The Next 3-D Chapter

Sprout already enables consumers and professionals to easily manipulate 3-D content in a new immersive computing workspace. But HP is promising even more ease of use and 3-D innovation over the course of the next year. Monsef promises that by next spring consumers will be able to create a 3-D model and have it printed out via a service bureau or 3-D printing product. "This is giving consumers the ability to go into a 3-D design process without thousands of hours in CAD training and be creative," he said. "It is something that is brand new."

Forget The Tablet: Here Comes Sprout

Monsef sees Sprout succeeding where tablets fall short. "You see a lot of applications out there, mainly showing up on tablets where people are trying to turn them into creative devices, but nobody has come along and built a platform that really unleashes creativity like this," he said. "It is something long overdue."