Exciting New “3D Mouse” for Google Earth – The SpaceNavigator

SpaceNavigator device for Google EarthI have been testing this device for a while now, and I’m really glad I can finally tell you about it! 3DConnexion, a Logitech Company (who are makers of keyboards, mice, and other input devices), has just introduced the SpaceNavigator™ – a three-dimensional navigation device that offers 3D designers and enthusiasts smooth, intuitive and powerful 3D navigation control. The best part is that they worked with Google to make sure the device works with both Google Earth and SketchUp (the device also already works with a number of other 3D modeling programs). All of you Google Earth fans are going to want one of these on your Christmas wish list!

The SpaceNavigator is a USB device with a solid steel bottom (so it stays in place). It currently works only on Windows XP, but they are working hard on a and on Mac OS X driver (now released for Mac OS X – 9-May-2007). You install a driver and control panel software, hook it up, and – if you already have the latest GE 4 installed – you can use it right away (because they worked with Google to install the interface).

I’ll tell you right now: this device is my new favorite way to use Google Earth. With small pulls, pushes, twists, and lifts you can move around Google Earth like a cinematic movie cameraman. The SpaceNavigator doesn’t replace your regular mouse. In fact, you can use both at the same time and this enhances your interaction. Amazingly, this product is very reasonably priced: for personal use, you can get SpaceNavigatorPE (Personal Edition) for only US$59, and for commercial use the SpaceNavigatorSE (Standard Edition) is only $99. When you get this device, you can’t help but be impressed with the quality and feel right out of the box. Similar kinds of devices cost hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in the past.
I’m waiting for my video demo to be uploaded (Update: here’s the video demo), in the meantime – this video I did last week for the Blue Marble was done using the SpaceNavigator – that’s how I got the smooth motion from place to place:


3DConnexion also has announced a premium version of the product called the SpaceExplorer™ which has more buttons and customization features for the 3D professional. The suggested retail price for the SpaceExplorer is $299. But, if you are just looking for a better way to move around in Google Earth, the SpaceNavigator at only $59 will be worth the small investment. And the additional $40 to use it for commercial applications is a minor step to take considering the benefits.
By the way, the guys running this company are a class act. Their president – Rory Dooley – personally came out to visit both myself in North Carolina and Stefan Geens in Europe (where are you now Stefan?) to provide us with materials, information, and tips on the SpaceNavigator. This is a company that recognizes the importance of the huge Google Earth market, and is savvy enough to recognize the important role blogs can play in spreading the word about new products. And, it won’t be long before every 3D virtual globe or immersive world creates an interface to use this as well – SecondLife, VE3D, and WorldWind are all going to want this baby too!
Also check out OgleEarth’s Review. And a review from JuicyGeography by Noel Jenkins.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. Looks like Stockholm out my window:-)

  2. Other than the form factor, how is it different from a joystick (you know.. the gamers thing…)?
    Please explain.

  3. israelist, the feel is very unique. First of all, they have 6 different sensors sending data at the same time. So, you can pitch, yaw, roll, translate, and zoom at the same time. This is why you get this smooth 3D control. The motions are quite small, and you can use it for long periods without getting tired. The feedback is so fast you just feel yourself immersed in the 3D space.

  4. “And the additional $40 to use it for commercial applications is a minor step to take considering the benefits.”
    What does that mean, “use it for commercial applications”? Are they offering it for resale, to be bundled with shrink-wrap software? Surely it doesn’t mean they charge more just if they think I’ll be using it for work as opposed to at home? Why do they care? Their online store actually implies the only difference is whether you get phone support or not.

  5. Despite ‘recognizing the importance of the huge Google Earth market’ they don’t seem to supply to South Africa. Surely a product for browsing the globe should be available throughout the globe? Maybe they should do a KML showing which countries they supply too, complete with links to do the purchase.

  6. It was a lot of fun to see the launch of this on the AU show floor this week. The tight and drift-free experience of the 6-degree-of-freedom movement is VERY compelling in Google Earth. I bought one.

  7. This is a must addition to anyone using GE. Put it on top of your Xmas list, you won’t be disappointed.

  8. I agree completely. I’ve been using mine for only a day now and my minimum interaction requirement for Google Earth has instantly jumped from a mouse with scroll wheel/third button (for the rotate/tilt functionality) to a 3D controller.
    By the way: did anyone check out http://www.vrlogic.com/html/3dconnexion/spacenavigator.html where another SpaceNavigator is shown? This one seems to be a Logitech keyboard with a SpaceNavigator (as discussed in this blog entry) integrated. It seems to support both less and more software: only AutoCAD is mentioned as compatible 3D software, but it also mentions scroll support in the Internet/Windows explorer and Microsoft Office. Especially that last option sounds great to me. Does anyone know of a driver that would make this possible with the stand-alone SpaceNavigator? They seem to be both made by 3DConnection….
    And on another note: When the SDK is out, I must try and see if it would take a lot of work to create a plugin for VisualStudio.NET so I could use the SpaceNavigator to navigate my software projects. Something like pan=scroll, rotate=switch open file and zoom=editor font size sounds both yummy and time-saving!

  9. Regarding my own question: download the 3DxOffice plugin from the 3Connection website (its in support, driver downloads under “Archive (Legacy Software)” as the OS because it’s not supported any more) and you get scroll support in Windows/Internet explorer and scroll and zoom support in Microsoft Office!

  10. I just got one. It’s great, it’s so easy to navigate in GE with it. The price is very cheap when you see the quality of the device!

  11. chuck 2.0 says:

    Does anyone know where to get the Google Sketchup plugin for this? It does work great in Google Earth, and they have a video and some mention of a plugin for SketchUp, but no link, Have written to Tech support twice, but no answer. Wrote to the Company, they said ask Tech Support. Groan!

  12. Is there a Vista compatible version of the unit?

  13. Josh Wilson says:

    It looks like another company (Sandiotech) has come out with a 3d mouse for GoogleEarth, Virtual Earth, SketchUp, AutoCAD, etc… It’s a bit more out of one’s pocket than the Space Navigator but I suppose it functions as both a mouse and a 3d joystick. Trying to analyze the controls in my head, I’m not sure it would do a mixture of movements simultaneously that the Space Navigator can do. Thought this might be something you’d be interested in investigating. http://www.sandiotech.com/

  14. Eric in Texas says:

    The Space Navigator is excellent. This is a quality built, professional grade interface device that works as well as it looks. You really can’t touch a similar 3d CAD device for the price point, so you have nothing to loose. I use it exclusively for Google Earth because I love exploring. Spent hours looking at the back roads in my area without ever leaving the city limits. I look forward to more drivers compatible with other software.

  15. I have a spacemouse, and yes it works in GE, but any idea why all the controls are different to when used in CAD?
    In CAD, if you push , the part moves away from you, if you rotate right, the part rotates right. In GE it all seems to be backwards…

  16. I just received my SpaceNavigator. So awesome device. Totally different experience with GE on Mac. The only drawback is the price in Europe – 110€ :-( 3dconnexion should consider price policy in Europe.

  17. Andrew P. says:

    I just used one of these devices for the first time at The Tech Museum in San Jose, California. Google, Inc. recently set up a spectacular multi-screen demonstration of Google Earth there. I found the control to be quite sensitive, yet intuitive and easy to learn.

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