It was a scanner on a stick that could take 3D-like images of objects. It sat atop a printer that went to market three years ago. And it came to mind immediately when I heard of the so-called Sprout PC, which Recode is saying HP will announce next week.
According to a Tuesday Recode story, "The [Sprout] combines a large flat-screen display...with a flat touch-enabled work surface and an overhead assembly that combines a projector and a 3-D scanner."
If Recode's report is real, the Sprout is conceptually similar to the HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275, a printer I tested for one month for a 2011 review. It has a scanner on an arm that rises about 8.5 inches above a flat "capture stage" on top of the printer. Here's what it looks like.
As I explained in my 2011 coverage, you can place a small, three-dimensional object on the capture stage, and the TopShot's camera will take multiple images of it. Proprietary software then creates a composite of those images that looks more three-dimensional than a single image would.
I was impressed by the scanner's ability to create a 3D-like image. Here I scanned a pear and compared the real thing to its 3D-scanned image, printed from the TopShot LaserJet Pro M275.
I tried the same trick with a handy knickknack that should be familiar to long-time San Francisco Giants fans. Anyone else remember Crazy Crab?
According to Recode, HP's Sprout will be able to do much more than scan. It'll have an overhead projector that can beam images onto a special work surface for editing via touch.
Whether HP's Sprout will appeal to image-oriented businesses and "prosumers," as Recode described the target market, remains to be seen. But if it's at all related to this long-ago printer, the addition of a projector, image manipulation and touch capabilities will make a cool technology even cooler.
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