3D mouse lets users “fly” through designs

April 5, 2012
Using a 3D mouse can make a huge productivity difference. Most of the 3D mice from 3Dconnexion, Boston, are aimed at professional users who design models with CAD or CAM software

Authored by:
Alan Preis
Mold Engineer
Edited by Leslie Gordon
Twitter @LeslieGordon

Using a 3D mouse can make a huge productivity difference. Most of the 3D mice from 3Dconnexion, Boston, are aimed at professional users who design models with CAD or CAM software. When employing a 3D mouse with your left hand and a standard 2D mouse in your right, the 3D mouse lets you perform multiple complex actions such as pan, zoom, and rotate 3D objects simultaneously. Interactions between users and computers suddenly seem to become more intuitive.

The key to all 3Dconnexion devices is a controller cap with a patented 6 degrees-of-freedom (6 DOF) optical sensor that lets users easily navigate models or camera positions in 3D space. Manipulating the cap also lets you “fly” through a three-dimensional world with an agility not possible with keyboards and standard mice. Intuitive software lets you accelerate or decelerate with a gentle touch.

SpaceMouse Pro is the latest in 3Dconnexion’s line of professional mice. With an ergonomic design and an onscreen display that provides visual support, the device delivers a simpler, more-productive workflow.

Like all 3Dconnexion mice, SpaceMouse Pro lets users easily navigate digital models and camera positions in 3D space with a simple push, pull, twist, or tilt of the control cap to pan, zoom, and rotate precisely. Here are some of the more important features:

Quickview keys provide fingertip access to 12 views, making it easier to detect errors, explore alternatives, and present work more effectively for review. The rotation toggle key disables the rotation axes, providing simultaneous pan-and-zoom navigation in work modes such as sketching.

Ergonomic design. A full-size, soft-coated hand rest ensures comfort by positioning the hand perfectly for the control cap. Every one of SpaceMouse Pro’s 15 programmable buttons are conveniently positioned, letting users access frequently used commands and work more efficiently.

Intelligent function keys recognize the application environment and assign appropriate commands to four large, soft-touch Intelligent Function keys.

The onscreen display provides a convenient visual reminder of commands assigned to the four keys on your computer screen, helping users stay focused. Currently, this visual reminder is available for Windows only. Keyboard modifiers provide quick access to Control, Shift, Alt, and Esc, saving time by reducing the need to move your hand to the keyboard.

The Virtual NumPad lets you input numerical data into an application using the standard mouse instead of the keyboard.

Properties menu modifiers give access to speed and calibration functions. Users can increase the overall speed of navigation by clicking the 3Dconnexion Control Panel, which is available from the system-tray icon, desktop, start menu, or Windows Control Panel. Selecting the Calibrate button is recommended if you carry the device around from place to place. Should undo pressure be applied to the controller cap, it may be necessary to calibrate the device. Simply open the 3Dconnexion Control Panel and select this button.

The SpaceMouse Pro falls in between the midrange SpaceExplorer and the top-of-the-line Space Pilot Pro in terms of size, shape, and features. One reason people preferred the SpaceExplorer over the Space Pilot Pro was the button layout. So 3Dconnexion basically kept the same layout, but made the buttons a little larger. I really like the larger buttons.

It’s also nifty that the keys feel and react like regular keyboard keys. In contrast, the SpaceExplorer buttons were a little hard to press down.

At $299, the SpaceMouse Pro is the same price as the SpaceExplorer. While still expensive, using a 3D mouse will let you appreciate and really understand the value of these devices.

I do have a few “wishes.” With the SpaceExplorer, the “Ctrl” key contained a small nub on the surface of the pad to quickly confirm that your finger is on that key (which is completely hidden by your left hand while operating the mouse). The SpaceMouse Pro should have the same. Last, the device was not available in a wireless version to help reduce desk clutter.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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