What if you could scan any object you place on your desk, read it into a computer, and adjust it with a few clicks? It almost seems like something out of Star Trek, but it's a real product called the HP Sprout Pro G2. I tested one recently, and the one thing I realized is that it is the perfect computer for anyone who wants to embrace the digital age.

Many of us dream of starting a company, but there's a lot of issues that come up. Other than the obvious ones like the initial investment required, hiring people to help, and marketing the product or service, there's the great challenge of doing something novel and unique. Anyone can create an app. Anyone can create a gadget (with enough funding and a Kickstarter account). Not many people can create a full service company that matches up perfectly with established trends in digital media and production.

That's what I liked about the Sprout Pro G2 so much. It's the updated version of the Sprout computer from last year and has a much higher resolution 3D scanner. With it, you can scan objects in 3D and manipulate them in 3D. You then create an animation or a movie, a digital brochure, or design a new product.

Say you are a shoe designer. The Sprout Pro would allow you to scan objects and and then use those textures or shape to create a new shoe design. It's not nearly as complicated as it has been in the past, when you'd have to scan a flat object and then create a 3D render by hand. I know because I went through the steps. I was able to hold a shoe in my hand and watch as the shoe was created virtually right on the screen.

There's a pad you use to interact with objects by touch. It's a little hard to explain because it's so odd, but the computer creates a display on the pad and when you reach down, press "buttons" and interact with physical objects on the pad.

HP had a demo setup that is basically a template for how you might run a business. Let's say you want to sell custom made iPhone cases. A customer could walk up to your retail store and design the case using the Sprout Pro. They would scan a photo or a texture, or load their own graphics off a USB drive. Then, they could select their exact phone model and create the design. If you had a 3D printer, you could then generate the actual case.

Selecting objects, choosing designs, and playing around with a 3D scan proved incredibly easy in my tests, so this idea a good match for anyone not just professional designers. You don't necessarily need any 3D mapping, graphic design, or rendering skills to make it all work. That said, making a complex animation or creating an online brochure could provide challenging if you don't know some of the more complicated apps like Adobe InDesign CC or don't know anything about cell animation.

The computer is designed to make the process much easier, though. Once you scan an object, you can mix and match designs using apps like Microsoft 3D Builder and Autodesk Meshmixer, which are both designed for anyone to make 3D objects, or the included HP WorkPlace software. I liked how the whole system is integrated, almost like a turn-key business. You can choose a bundle that includes a 3D printer as well, although the Sprout Pro is more of a design and virtual editing platform.

The computer will come out in 2017, with no word on exact pricing yet.

I want to get my hands on one soon.

Here's an explainer video on how it works:

 

Published on: Jan 9, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.