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3D Connexion's SpaceNavigator
Explore 3D files with this 3D navigation device By John Virata

3D Connexion's SpaceNavigator is a 3D navigation device that enables you to manipulate 3D files with your fingers rather than a mouse or keyboard. The device enables you to manipulate 3D data found in applications such as Acrobat 3D, as well as CAD and 3D animation software fairly effortlessly. All it takes is a quick tour of the demonstration that comes with the software drivers and you can manipulate 3D objects and models with the SpaceNavigator.

After you've installed the drivers, and plugged the SpaceNavigator into your USB port, it is a good idea to go through the tutorial. The first involves a series of onscreen buttons that you push to get a feel for the movement, while the second details how to achieve certain movements with the controller. You move your cursor over the image to see an animation of how the device works. Then you can experiment with the SpaceNavigator itself.

The SpaceNavigator is ideal for cruising 3D applications and Google Earth.

The SpaceNavigator is about the circumference of a 16oz soda bottle and is made of brushed steel at the base with the input arm (which is a smaller circumference) wrapped in rubber. It is no taller than a shot glass. A blue light can be seen between the crevice of the input arm and the steel base, giving the device a cool blue glow to it, which is ideal in those dark designer room environments. Two buttons reside on the side of the unit which gives access to the Control Panel via a click of both buttons. This is where you customize the movements of your SpaceNavigator.

Device Configuration

Speed and reverse axes configuration window.

Under the Device Configuration tab, you can adjust the speed of the SpaceNavigator as well as the zoom direction. You can also configure your applications as well as select pan/zoom, Tilt/spin/roll, and reverse all axes. Button configuration enables you to specify what you want the right and left buttons to do, while advanced settings enables you to adjust the speed of each movement.  

In use
At first, you will be tempted to grasp the SpaceNavigator with your fingers and pull hard to tilt or to firmly pull up or down to zoom in or out. This is unnecessary. SpaceNavigator responds to the slightest touches, and there is no need to be forceful with it. It is heavy enough to discourage picking up and you don't need to given its very smooth response.
Using the SpaceNavigator is a must in those situations when you need to view all aspects of a 3D image file. It is really so much better than a mouse. You get to move the object around in all positions, zoom in and out on it, rotate it and more. It is especially useful for those who are enjoying using Google Earth.

SpaceNavigator comes with plug-ins and add-ins from a variety of 2D and 3D applications, including, AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidEdge, SolidWorks, Adobe Photoshop CS3, Softimage XSI, Sketch up, 3ds max 6-9, Acrobat 3D,  Maya 6-8.5, NX, Photoshop CS2 and CS 3, Pro Engineer, and QuickTime VR. It is a precision instrument that will mitigate the constant mousing or keyboarding when working in a 3D environment. If you work daily in a 3D environment, the SpaceNavigator is a must have addition to your toolbox. It is priced at $59 for the Personal Edition (non-commercial use) and $99 for the standard edition, which includes two years of full technical support via email, phone, or Web. For more information, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at

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