HP Sprout
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HP's Sprout uses a smart mat instead of keyboard and mouse

For years, the design of desktop PCs has been relatively static when compared to the innovation tablets and smartphones have enjoyed.

But now, Hewlett Packard is hoping to shake up the sector with a machine that uses a touch mat and in-built 3D camera as its main controls, leaving a keyboard and mouse as optional extras.

The Sprout's projects graphics onto its mat to provide its owners with a limitless range of controls.

These can be anything from normal computer icons and alphanumeric keyboards, to piano keys and DJ mixing decks - the only limit is the software developers' imagination.

Owners can also capture objects by placing real-world products on top of the surface, allowing the items to be scanned and then reproduced as graphics that appear on the mat and can be manipulated by hand.

Alternatively, the machine can create 3D-printer files that can be edited on the main screen before being turned into physical objects or shared with others.

The device, which will sell for $1,900 in the US and £1,900 in the UK, was five years in the making and was almost cancelled at one point before HP decided to make it the flagship of a new Blended Reality range.

It is being launched during a period of upheaval for the company.

HP was dethroned as the world's bestselling PC-maker in 2012, when it was overtaken by China's Lenovo, but is seeking to regain pole position.

As part of that plan it intends to divide the company in two. One half will get Hewlett-Packard's printing and PC business while the other half will focus on other hardware, software and services.

HP currently has an 18.8% market share of the PC market compared to Lenovo's 19.4%, according to the consultancy Gartner.

One of the advisor's analysts is a fan of Sprout, but has doubts about its potential.

"It's a great product and I really like the concept," said Mikako Kitagawa.

"The question is will it be a mainstream device, and the answer is probably not. It's not just expensive -it's also not clear how quickly users would adapt to adapt to its new way of inputting data, and this type of device is not for everyone.

"But it's still good for HP to show that it's innovative as this demonstrates that it's not just a producer of normal PCs - a commoditised market - but also has great technology behind it. And that will improve the value of its brand."

The BBC's technology desk editor, Leo Kelion, was given a demo of the Sprout by its inventor, Brad Short and HP's senior vice-president of personal devices Ron Coughlin.