It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the 3D Mouse from 3DConnexion called the SpaceNavigator. It is my favorite way to move around in Google Earth. You use it in combination with your regular mouse, but it gives you control over your 3D scene like no other device (see video). But, until today, the new lighter version called the SpaceNavigator for Notebooks was under wraps. I was fortunate enough to be given one for testing a few weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying carrying this new version in my laptop case (see below for my comments). The new version comes with a stylish black-leather carrying case, perfect for storing in your laptop case. Here’s a comparison shot of the new smaller version to the standard size model most of you have been using (or wanted):
As you can see, the new version is almost half the weight, but is only a little smaller in size. Both units have a steel bottom to help keep it still when you are pushing and pulling to get the desired 3D movement. Since the new version is lighter, you will sometimes find yourself lifting it off the table top (especially if you use the regular model). But, I find it gives me the desired motion and doesn’t bother me at all when I sometimes lift it off the table. You can also hold it in your other hand for more intense movement requirements, but I rarely find that necessary. For precise work, I just hold the base with thumb and pinky finger and move the knob with the other fingers – the size and shape of the new version is perfect for this. At least for my hand size.
The original Space Navigator only costs US $59 for the Personal Edition (for educators and personal use), and $99 for the Standard Edition for professionals (same unit just a different license). The new portable Space Navigator for Notebooks has a suggested retail price of $129. If you are a serious user of 3D applications like Google Earth, Second Life, SketchUp, etc. – and you do a lot of travel – the higher cost will definitely be worth the lighter weight.
If you haven’t used a SpaceNavigator, you really should try one out. They plug into your USB port, but the unique capability is its ability to simultaneously control multiple axes of motion. You feel like you are a cinematic camera operator while driving Google Earth (or other 3D applications). Or, when you’re flying over ground, you feel like an expert helicopter pilot. Most of the videos I’ve made demonstrating Google Earth features were made using a SpaceNavigator.
Keep your eyes open (or your news feed tuned) to Google Earth Blog for a future giveaway of one or more of these beauties. If you already have a Space Navigator, you’ll love the new Space Navigator for Notebooks! (Note: 3DConnexion advertises on my blog – but, that isn’t the reason I use mine every day, nor why I encourage people to get them).