Talking of having fun, the SpaceNavigator also works very well with Google Earth. Now, if you’ve played around with Google Earth you’re well aware of how addictive it can be – you can’t help but look for just one more landmark, or check out one more of your friends’ homes. The SpaceNavigator allows for far more fluid navigation of Google Earth – the vertical axis is used to zoom in and out of the planet, the horizontal axis will move you across the surface, tilting will change the pitch and rotating will rotate the compass. You’ll probably find yourself struggling at first and even thinking that you’d be quicker just clicking and grabbing with a normal mouse, but persevere and you’ll be rewarded.
Traversing Google Earth with the SpaceNavigator is probably as close as you’ll get to flying around the virtual globe. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon find yourself whizzing from place to place, without the need for double clicks, or the constant hassle of picking up your mouse and replacing it on the mat. If you’re one of the many that’s addicted to Google Earth, then the SpaceNavigator makes a very good case for itself.
And that’s the problem really. The SpaceNavigator is a device that will be welcomed by those who frequently use applications that it works with. This is why the high-end versions have a very strong user base – the devices are certified for any number of CAD and 3D modelling programs. But for the general consumer the argument is less solid, and even my earlier example of using Photoshop CS3 is tempered by the fact that it too is a very expensive piece of software.
If there’s one thing in the SpaceNavigator’s favour, it’s that there is an SDK available, allowing software developers to implement support for the device. This could potentially open up completely new markets for 3Dconnexion, not least of which is gaming. A device like this would be a huge benefit when playing a large scale real time strategy game such as Supreme Commander or World in Conflict. Whether game developers choose to recognise what 3Dconnexion has created, remains to be seen, but I do feel that the SpaceNavigator could be a great PC gaming peripheral.
The version of the SpaceNavigator I’m looking at is the Personal Edition, which is aimed at end users, rather than businesses. This distinction means that this is a very affordable bit of kit, going for around £40 on the street. That’s a very reasonable price for something as innovative and well built as the SpaceNavigator, but ultimately any purchase prospect will rely on whether you actually need a device like this in the first place.
3Dconnexion has definitely created something different in the SpaceNavigator, and although its talents are obvious for professional computer designers everywhere, there’s a lot of potential for consumer use too. That said, end user application support is somewhat limited at present, so you’re going to have to be a serious amateur photographer, Google Earth addict or SketchUp fiend to justify a purchase.
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