DESPITE THE EVER-EVOLVING technology landscape, it's not that often that I get to see something genuinely innovative and unique.
As a technology journalist I am surrounded by, and invited to try out, new PCs, laptops, tablets, gadgets, accessories and peripherals - anything that requires technology to function which, let's face it, is everything these days.
So it's easy to become desensitised to new products if they don't offer anything unique or ground breaking. Each firm's new Android tablet, for example, is rarely that different to its last or its competitors'. Yes, the features and design and function may differ, but the general concept is the same.
So naturally I get excited when I see something that at least looks distinctively different from the usual throng of devices I get to play with as part of my day job.
For instance, this week, I got chance to get some hands-on time with HP's strangely named Sprout desktop PC unveiled last year, a machine unlike anything the company has made before and unlike any PC we've seen before.
Sprout can best be described by its three main functions that bring a completely new touch input experience to the desktop.
Instead of the traditional screen, mouse and keyboard set-up, the Sprout has a 20-point capacitive touch mat with a built-in overhead projector that allows the mat to act as a second screen. It also has an integrated 3D scanner using Intel's RealSense camera technology that can digitise physical objects.
I got to speak to the inventor, Brad Short, an HP Distinguished Technologist, who talked me through the main features of Sprout, showed me how it works and told me how this creative device has been five years in the making.
Short explained that the Sprout provides a different and more natural way of using a computer.
We are accustomed to pointing a cursor at icons, selecting them by using a mouse on a desktop or prodding at a screen with a finger on a tablet.
But Sprout is about a combination of these two things in the form of a dual-screen set-up, where each screen complements each other in operation.
The main display is a 23in 1920×1080 resolution touchscreen. Underneath is a magnetically connected touch mat with a 20in surface area that shows the projected 1920x1080 resolution image.
The mat therefore acts as a tablet, replacing the traditional keyboard and mouse, despite these still being included.
This mat is very hard wearing, made from a similar material used for flooring, and has the natural feel of paper.
It is very accurate to touch and, despite the screen being displayed via an overhead capture and projection system called the HP Illuminator, it works in the same way as a tablet and is just as responsive.
"The dual screen set up isn't just extended real estate," Short told me, adding that the touch mat facilitates all sorts of creative activities, such as sketching and creating with your fingers in paint software, customisible gaming pads for video games, or a scanning bed.
The HP Sprout isn't anything special in terms of internal processing. It's powered by a rather typical Core i7-4790S processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 745A GPU and 8GB RAM alongside a 1TB hard disk with an 8GB SSD accelerator, all running on Microsoft's bog standard Windows 8.1 operating system.
However, I was impressed with the fluidity of operations, even when doing what would usually be deemed quite demanding tasks.
For example, the overhead projector, which is powered by the HP DLP Projector and includes a built-in LED desk lamp, also houses a 14.6MP camera and Intel RealSense sensor.
This means that you can take snapshots of 3D images, then instantly scan, render, manipulate, edit and redesign them for various creative projects.
The machine can also power new ways of learning. For example, a bundled origami app brings virtual reality into the real world by projecting an image onto a piece of paper and showing you where to fold to make the 3D object.
HP's Sprout is one of the first devices for a long time that has given people a reason to opt for a desktop computer, although it is yet to be seen whether it's genuinely useful or a novelty.
At this point, I'm swaying more towards the former. This just the beginning for Sprout. Its capabilities seem endless right now, but they do seem rather limited in terms of the audience.
I can see families, especially young children, taking to Sprout like a fish to water. It's incredibly intuitive and I found myself able to use its features and follow the on-screen instructions without ever having used one before.
But right now, it is definitely a consumer machine. It's a great way of introducing the masses to new forms of technology - 3D scanning and its application for creativity, for instance.
Saying that, HP currently has just 13 developers who have created apps specifically for Sprout. They were brought onboard especially to help exhibit the machine's capabilities, so there's plenty of room to grow.
Short explained that HP has done this on purpose to display Sprout's potential to the biggest market. The idea is to keep it as simple as possible, and see where it goes from there.
The firm already plans to update the 3D scanning capabilities in the near future to offer an even wider feature set.
HP is also encouraging more developers to convert their work into Sprout-enabled apps, and says that the SDK makes it easy for them to do so.
Now that we've seen what it can do, I can only imagine it's going to get more interesting from here.
The HP Sprout is available to pre-order now from the HP Store and selected outlets in the UK with an RRP of £1,899. µ
'Some of us like the misery'
That'll surely affect its credit score