Soaring Around The 3-D World

Alison Young
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June 06, 2007
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Last month, 3Dconnexion, a Logitech company, announced its line of 3D mice supported by Google Earth 4.1. Using SpaceNavigator, you Mac users can now experience superior navigation control in Google Earth with more fluid and intuitive soaring around the world. I remember playing with this SpaceNavigator at Macworld, but I wanted to test it out a little bit more than just on the show floor, especially after this latest announcement.

The SpaceNavigator does almost exactly what its name says. It’s a 3D mouse which you use to navigate space. This is absolutely perfect to use with Google Earth, or for those of you who deal with rendering software on a regular basis. The device itself is fairly physically heavy (for a “mouse”), but it’s built that way so it has enough counter weight to pull up on for zooming out. Using this definitely gave me a whole new take on Google Earth, adding in a 3D experience that cannot be matched with just a regular mouse and keyboard.

To control the SpaceNavigator, you can push, pull, tilt and twist its controller cap to go in the direction you please. This movement simultaneously pans, zooms and rotates your 3D imagery easily. Using Google Earth (still one of the best free pieces of software out there), I flew throughout Oahu. I soared in detail through the Koolaus, through various neighborhoods and ended up at the beach. I then moved on across the Pacific Ocean to various points on the Mainland, all within a minute timeframe.

In addition to Google, SpaceNavigator is supported by more than 100 of today’s most popular 3D applications, including Adobe Photoshop CS3, NASA Word Wind 1.4, Adobe Acrobat 3D, Autodesk Maya, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks or Google SketchUp, just to name a few.

Google SketchUp is another one of Google’s wonderful free programs. It allows you to easily bring one of your ideas to life in 3D. You can model just about anything from buildings, cars, landscapes, your kitchen or even people. You don’t need to be a professional designer to use this, but the $495 SketchUp Pro 6 gives a little bit more options to the experts.

If you’ve never used 3D to navigate before or are scared to, don’t fear. There’s almost no learning curve with the 3Dconnexion Configuration Wizard. It’s an interactive tool that uses animation and images to guide you through

SpaceNavigator’s controller cap movements and helps you configure your preferences. It also gives you demo applications so you can start using it right away.

I wouldn’t buy this to replace your everyday mouse, but it’s definitely fun to use to fly around the earth with. I would buy one if you’re a Google Earth enthusiast or again, if you need one of these for your profession. Additionally, having nothing to do with the product’s performance itself, but it has a pleasant blue glow, which is relaxing to look at on your desk, especially in the dark.

For what it can do, the SpaceNavigator is cheap with its $59 price tag for your personal use or $99 for commercial use. The Personal Edition offers you online technical support only, while the commercial Standard Edition gives you online, e-mail and phone support. Upgrade SpaceNavigator Standard Edition licenses are available for $40. It’s compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista PC, Mac OS X 10.4.6 or later, and Linux SuSE 9.0 or greater. Find it at, CDW ( or PC Mall (

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