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Hands on with Sprout, HP's keyboard-and-mouse killer

Will this $1,899 PC change how we interact with computers?

Projection keyboards aren't anything new, but it's a technology that's had plenty pratfalls over the years. HP's trying to change that with a new desktop computer it announced today called Sprout. It has a 23-inch,1080p screen that is topped with a canopy of cameras and a projector that turns a companion touch mat into an interactive display. Because of that technology, HP believes Sprout will bring about the end of keyboard-and-mouse interaction.

At an event this morning in Manhattan, HP showed off Sprout to dozens of members of the press with multiple hands-on demonstrations. The different stations focused on the innovative combination of the built-in projector and capacitive touch mat that is meant to obfuscate the traditional PC setup. At one, artists were using Sprout's pen to draw right along with the projection. At another, a multi-platform collaborative program was being demonstrated across multiple Sprout PCs and HP tablets.

Maybe the most impressive, though, was the station with a made-for-Sprout version of the button-masher game Castle Crashers. The Sprout PC's touch mat can register twenty different simultaneous inputs, so even playing a fast-paced game like this was no problem for the combination of capacitive touch, projection, and 3D sensor technology. Every furious tap registered cleanly, and there was no lag between the actions on the mat and the gameplay on the screen.

The rest of the PCs that were on display were left for general purpose interaction, and there was certainly something deeply surprising about how well the mat reads your input when using the computer for regular tasks. It also can act as a second screen, complete with its own Windows 8 start screen, though the display that's projected is significantly lower-resolution than the 1080p display it lies beneath.

The mat itself snaps in to the base of the monitor with magnets, so buyers who find themselves going through mouse and keyboard withdrawal can easily swap it out. Even with all the creative ways HP showed it off, the whole package still seems a bit like frivolous technology looking for a true purpose. But at least this time it really works.