When HP introduced the Sprout PC in 2014, it was one of those curiosities that could have easily ended up forgotten by history. The expensive, ungainly 23″ all-in-one had a huge downward-facing camera/projector hanging off the top for 2D and 3D scanning and replaced the keyboard with a huge touch mat that could be used to manipulate virtual models on screen. It was never going to be a mainstream hit, but we always thought it could find a home with schools and businesses that need to do a lot of prototyping. Well, apparently HP has been doing well with those groups — they’ve just announced the Sprout Pro G2 at CES 2017, an enhanced version with better 3D scanning and a more streamlined design.
The basic shape is still the same — the 23.8″ 1080p display still has a combination 3D scanner/projector hanging off the top, with a touch mat attached to the bottom. The projector can display a 21.3″ image onto the touch mat, which can be used as a keyboard, a sketchpad, or a touch interface to play around with 3D models on the real screen. A bundled pen stylus can be used to sketch or write on the mat, with the results going up on the main screen if desired.
On the G2, scanning has been significantly improved. HP has moved from an Intel RealSense depth-sensing camera to an Orbbec camera — a demo I saw showed an impressive amount of detail captured on a small 3D statue, from details on the base to curves and small etchings on the statue itself. It’s now also possible to 3D scan an object using your hands. Before, you needed a special carousel that would rotate the image under the camera. Now, you can just turn the object in your hands and watch as the scan takes shape on-screen — as long as you keep moving your hands while scanning the object, the Sprout Pro G2 is smart enough to ignore your hands when creating the 3D image.
What can you do with those 3D scans? Well, depends on what Sprout users create. HP is pushing out an updated SDK for the G2, allowing developers to create new applications that use the PC’s scanning and projector features. HP has a special app store available where those user-created programs can be browsed and downloaded. HP also has a WorkTools suite of software with basic editing features for 2D and 3D scans.
The Sprout Pro G2 can be useful anywhere from engineering firms to retail (think allowing customers to customize furniture at a kiosk before buying it), but it can’t be overstated how useful just a single unit can be in the classroom. With more and more classrooms embracing coding and computer literacy, the G2 could enable new ways to teach simple electronics through small-scale projects. Instead of actually having to get the parts (a dicey prospect when dealing with teens and potential litigation), teachers could get students to make virtual prototypes as a group using custom software — there’s a reason HP made it possible for four people to use the touch mat at once.
In terms of computing hardware, not much is different from last year’s Sprout Pro. The G2 runs on an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU, and 8 GB of RAM, along with a 1 TB SSD/HDD fusion drive.
HP doesn’t have pricing or availability information ready for the G2 yet, but they expect to have more information ready by March of this year.