Hewlett-Packard is making it easier to scan and print three-dimensional images with its Sprout immersive computing system.
The tech giant on June 11 unveiled new 3D technologies that will enable Sprout users to quickly scan 3D images into the system, manipulate and share the images, and then print the images with a connected 3D printer. Sprout is a foundation of HP's larger "Blended Reality" immersive-computing vision that officials have said will fuel creativity and productivity in both commercial and consumer environments.
Until Sprout, such 3D capabilities were only available to a few people who could afford the technology, according to Eric Monsef, vice president of HP's Highly Immersive Systems unit. The new system, introduced in October 2014, is HP's "on-ramp" into the Blended Reality initiative, Monsef said during a conference call with journalists. Sprout is making 3D technology usable and affordable, essentially "democratizing 3D," he said.
Sprout integrates such components as the project, 3D camera, scanner, keyboard and mouse, and a canvas with touch capabilities into a single system. It also comes with a 23-inch, full-HD touch-screen, and is designed to enable users to merge physical objects into a digital workspace. It's powered by an Intel Core i7 chip, runs Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system and HP's Workspace—a software platform designed for the system—and includes 8GB of DDR3 memory.
Initially, Sprout could only scan objects one side at a time. HP on June 11 is introducing new capabilities to the system, in particular an integrated desktop 3D scanning solution that is a combination of hardware and software. It includes 3D cameras using Intel's RealSense photo technology and the 3D Capture Stage, which is a turntable that can be used as a platform for objects that are being scanned. The platform automatically tilts 15 degrees as it turns to enable the camera to capture all aspects of the object, and the 3D Capture software inside Sprout creates a full 3D digital image that users can manipulate.
Users can still manually turn the image if desired—and HP is working on stop-motion capabilities for Sprout—and can save the images in a 2D format and clean up artifacts, Monsef said. The system also can fuse and repair the image if needed for printing.
"The turntable does change angles, but multiple scans can be automatically combined," he said.
In addition, Sprout enables users to share 3D objects via software that lets others view and manipulate the images via an online 3D viewer. Using the technology, users can rotate and resize the object, and users can share the images through email or post them to Facebook and other social sites.
The Sprout software also enables users to print 3D objects through a connected 3D printer, and HP is working with Dremel to offer a scan-to-print solution using Dremel's 3D IdeaBuilder technology. The vendor also is working with print service providers to enable 3D prints via mail of objects on the Sprout.
With 3D Capture, HP is able to bring the capabilities that Sprout currently uses through Microsoft's 3D Builder and AutoDesk's MeshMixer into a single application, Monsef said.
Sprout pricing starts at $1,899, and the 3D Capture Stage turntable will become available in July starting at $299.
Sprout represents a significant departure from traditional PCs and workstations at a time when the global PC market continues to stagnate as shipments worldwide slow. PCs continue to be a key computing device for business users and consumers, but more attention and money are going to newer mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and phablets.
The system also comes as HP prepares to break into two companies Nov. 1, with one—HP Inc.—selling PCs and printers. The other, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, will sell enterprise IT products and services, including servers, storage, networking and cloud solutions.
HP isn't the only company developing immersive systems. Dell last year—a month after the introduction of Sprout—showed off what officials are calling the "smart desk" concept, which also includes multi-touch LCD screens, a digital touch-enabled workspace and a stylus.