I 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.