HP adds 3D scanner to all-in-one PCs

HP adds 3D scanner to all-in-one PCs

PALO ALTO, California - Hewlett-Packard has taken a modest step towards reimagining the venerable personal computer, merging a 3D scanner and projector with an all-in-one PC to create a US$1,899 (S$2,430) ensemble it hopes can rekindle industry interest.

The new desktop computer, called Sprout, went on sale online on Wednesday.

In a departure for the company, HP also announced it will share the 3D printing technology it has been developing for years.

The technique, which the company claims can print 10 times faster and much cheaper than current products, will be shared with select manufacturing and technology partners to garner feedback before a tentative 2016 launch.

Like many of its rivals, HP is struggling with a stagnant PC business that still makes up half its revenue. HP hopes a new take on the old PC can reignite customer interest, though it is careful to play down expectations. Several industry-wide attempts to revive the market, such as ultra-thin laptops and all-in-ones, initially failed to catch on.

Sprout runs on Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and can be operated via a sensor-laden mat akin to a giant mousepad. HP is betting that users prefer touch controls at desk level rather than onscreen.

Its biggest departure from the traditional computer is a display-mounted 3D scanner and projector that creates a digital image of objects placed on the mat. It also projects images onto the mat, which a user can edit by touch.

HP executives demonstrated how various items, from pens and cups to figurines and pictures, can be scanned, tacked onto existing images or video, edited - such as by drawing or typing on the touch mat - then e-mailed or shared through social media.

Sprout comes with a 23-inch touchscreen display, 1TB of storage space and is powered by an Intel i7 processor, said tech website The Verge.

Eric Monsef, who heads the project for HP, said the initial production run will be modest, but can be scaled up if needed. The key is to attract developers for a new Sprout marketplace or app store, for specifically designed software that can take advantage of 3D capabilities.

It will come with apps from DreamWorks Animation, Skype and Evernote, among others.

"It's about getting people excited again," Mr Monsef said in an interview. The hope is that Sprout will entice more developers as time goes by, who will in turn devise novel ways to make use of the technology, he said. "Day of launch, we're not even at the halfway point of our work."

HP's anticipated entry into 3D printing, however, will not come until 2016, after a process of feedback and refinement is completed.

The company calls its technique "multi jet fusion" because it employs a series of printing jets spraying multiple chemical agents simultaneously. It also claims it is cheaper than other commercially available technologies.

"We've been working for a number of years already. We have patents going back more than 10 years," said project chief Ramon Pastor. "We didn't want to introduce a product that wasn't a breakthrough."

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