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SpaceNavigator - Navigate Your 3D World! (Another Review)
Originally Posted by Appletom
First Observations / General Impressions:
It looks COOL! The solid metal base, the sunken blue LEDs, the shiny black top, the smooth black rubber with grip ridges, wow.. the 3Dconnexion design team went to town on this one! Stylish doesn't do it justice - this thing even tops Apple, and that's a high bar!
The heavy solid metal base actually serves a very well thought out purpose, it anchors the SpaceNavigator to your desk so you are free to tug & twist to your heart's content without fear of it slipping one millimeter - this gives you much better control over your movement and allows for seamless maneuvering. The added 'mouse' buttons add some very handy functionality, you can program them to do almost anything - after much tinkering I've set mine back to the defaults - but they go so far as to allow you the option to program your own macros - meaning you can make those buttons do ANYTHING you please!
The technology that the space navigator is based on is nothing new to any of us, we first saw a primitive version the technology when joysticks came to the gaming world in the '80s, though they were mostly limited to 2D functions. However, that said, this is an entirely new beast - this is what the industry calls a 6DoF (6 Degrees of Freedom) controller. Until now, there has never been one widely accessible to the consumer, in the past a 6DoF controller would cost several hundred dollars and was usually reserved for the likes of top architects & designers. Now the game has changed, 3Dconnextion has released a very funky 6DoF, the SpaceNavigator, at a price consumers can afford. In a world where 3D is the next thing, and a lot of software developers are embracing the possibilities, a tool like this will prove to be a must-have!
The website has an impressive list of compatible applications, from CAD programs to Adobe programs like Photoshop, From Microsoft Office to Google Earth, and even surprisingly Second Life!
The user-guide is clear and to the point, plug the SpaceNavigator in with your computer powered off, start your computer and install the software - there are frequent updates to the program and so I suggest you check the website for the latest installers, rather than relying on the copy on the CD.
The installation ran smoothly for me on all 3 computers (laptop, music studio & work) which run Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1, Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Beta 1 & Windows Vista Business Premium SP1, and the device works perfectly on all of them, too.
The 'configuration' panel provided at the end of the installer could have been done better, I'd like to see some interactivity in the next version, but it gets across the point clearly and helps you begin to get your head around how it works.
It takes 5 or 10 minutes of getting used to, but once you have the hang of it you'll never want to let it go - you can't dream of controlling Google Earth like this with a mouse, it feels far more natural. The pressure sensing technology makes the SpaceNavigator feel like a virtual extension of you, which gives you the freedom to fly around the globe without really having to stop and think about it. The device is intuitive, so the closer you are to the ground the more precise the movements become, while on the ground you can make movements with millimeter precision and when zoomed out you can hop halfway around the world with the flick of a wrist.
As with everyone else, the first place I 'flew' to was home, I then took a tour of some of the 3D models around the globe.. In NYC you can zoom in & out of the buildings like Spiderman, in Sydney you can peruse the Opera House & Harbour Bridge before zooming off and taking a helicopter ride around Uluru. You can even drive right across the Golden Gate Bridge once you've mastered the controls a little better!
I don't think there's anything quite like the SpaceNavigator in terms of control & freedom while zooming around in the 3D realm.
I've had the opportunity to let a few friends have a try of this and even the most technophobic of them have gotten the hang of this and thoroughly enjoyed it. My colleague, Sean, has been living at my desk today, he has become obsessed with it.
When I first saw the SpaceNavigator I couldn't understand why I should go out and get an extra device just to maneuver through Google Earth SketchUp.. Now I don't think I could live without it, now that I've had a chance to play with it I'd buy one in a heartbeat.
I think 3Dconnexion has succeeded in making powerful 3D navigation accessible and affordable for designers, architects, students, artists, and anyone else who wants to enjoy the 3D experience.
I can't wait to see what else I can do with it!