LAS VEGAS — Of all the amazing technology on show here at International CES, the most surprising so far is Hewlett-Packard’s weird Sprout, a multitalented Franken-puter that looks like a ton of fun.
I’d seen the press releases when it launched last October and had pretty low expectations. It just looked too weird. But I was genuinely delighted to see it in action.
I was peering over someone’s shoulder as the Sprout scanned an old print photograph and a colorful swatch of fabric. Placed on the touchpad below the camera, the machine quickly scanned them in and presented perfect facsimiles onscreen.
It also took a picture of a real object — a big juicy orange — that was quickly turned it into a digital photograph. After scanning, the images could be blown up, rotated, zoomed in and out, copied, pasted and all the other normal digital manipulations using the multitouch pad, just like manipulating objects on an iPad.
Then the operator, HP product ambassador Marvin Florentino, created a 3-D scan of a white plastic theatrical mask. The overhead camera took a series of images that looked like topographical maps from different angles. It was impressively sci-fi. A minute later, a 3-D model of the mask was inside the machine.
“It gives you the ability to turn the physical into the digital,” said Florentino. “This brings out the creative in all of us.”
Although I played with the Sprout for only a few minutes, the machine was intuitive and fun. Indeed, HP calls it a ” “creativity station.”
Tom Hackenberg, an analyst with market research firm IHS who was standing next to me during the demo, was also impressed. “This is going to capture a huge part of the 3-D printing market,” he said.
The only problem in my mind is that the Sprout runs Windows 8.1, a Franken-operating system designed for both PCs and tablets. But perhaps it’s perfect for the Sprout, which is a fusion of the two. The Sprout is available for $1,899.