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Space Navigator

SpaceNavigator is a 3D navigation device designed to offer intuitive and powerful 3D navigation control

SpaceNavigator is a 3D navigation device designed to offer intuitive and powerful 3D navigation control for users of 3D applications.  SpaceNavigator uses six optical sensors to continuously communicate multiple threads of navigation data to 3D applications. 3D Designers and enthusiasts will experience responsive control of three-dimensional objects and environments without the repeated steps and tiresome commands required to navigate with a keyboard and mouse. SpaceNavigator is compatible with all of today's most popular 3D design applications.

This quote from SpaceNavigator manual is quite right. This device is really an outstanding mean to deal with 3D dimensional scenes as well as regular 2D images. And the main purpose of this review is to give you an overall impression from using Space Navigator.

Once 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator arrives you receive an elegant package. Space Navigator is packed inside of a plastic wrap which is suspended by the means of cardboard structures to prevent SpaceNavigator from any damages while being delivered to you.

Package contains SpaceNavigator device, disk with driver, user’s manual, Quick Start Guide and additional software (Demos and Tools) which one will find very useful. That is all you need to start working with Navigator. Unpack it, unroll the wire, connect to your computer and right after installing device driver your Space Navigator will light up with a pleasant blue glow showing that it’s ready for use.

I must say that the device is quite heavy but such a weight is absolutely grounded by the way of dealing with it. Antistatic ring on the bottom of the Navigator and its weight prevent the device from moving and swinging that could have been inconvenient. So overall impression from device look and design is very good and it seems to be very convenient for use.

Installing Driver and Tools is quite an easy process. Just insert enclosed driver disk and an Auto-run software will propose you to install the driver and tools to your computer. Driver setup also installs plug-ins for the next popular software: Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk AutoCAD/Mechanical, Autodesk Alias Studio, Autodesk Viz, Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Dassault Systems CATIA, PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire, Google Earh, Google SketchUp, UGS Solid Edge, UGS NX, SolidWorks, SolidWorks eDrawings and XSI| SOFTIMAGE. Sorry if you are a user of Lightwave but 3Dconnexion developers claim to update plug-ins list soon so wait for the news.

Tools include:

3Dconnexion Wizard – quick start guide that explains the principles of “space navigation” and operations allowed by SpaceNavigator interactively.

3Dconnexion Control Panel – allows to setup all device events (movement speed, buttons, directions and etc.) for any application and keep these setting saved for current app. Control Panel consist of four book-mark panels:

Device Configuration – set overall speed for all axes, calibrate it and set main or zoom direction (Z axis).

App Configuration – allows to switch on/off movement axes and rotation directions apart, switch on dominant axis and reverse all axes.

Button Configuration – gives a list of possible for current application (this is really incredible cooperation between the device and an app!) for left ad right SpaceNavigator buttons. It also have an option to setup one’s own custom function.

Advanced Settings – allows to switch on/off and reverse any individual axis.

3Dconnexion Picture Viewer - it is an extension of the Windows Picture Viewer which wasn’t a popular program before. But with functionality of SpaceNavigator I assure you this is one of the most convenient ways to view photos and pictures!

Online help – very good online help.

No matter of the 3D application you are using (supported by 3Dconnexion plug-in) SpaceNavigator has individual Control Panel for it. It shouldn’t vary much from general Control Panel but might have some additional controls like rotation center (Camera focus, Scene center and Object center), snaps and etc.

One of the most useful controls I found is Automatic Keyframing. Recording smooth movements of camera controlled using SpaceNavigator gives you an outstanding mean to create realistic camera movements of fly-throughs, object tracking and fly-arounds.

SpaceNavigator allows to move and rotate objects in 3 directions (Ox, Oy, Oz) which is also very convenient. These movements can’t pretend to be precise but using snapping to grid and objects would make your scene design process as fast as never. I just advice to switch between motions and rotations for convenience.

SpaceNavigator can also become your device No.1 for precise low-poly modeling as switching between axes (using mouse) has most probably drived you crazy before.

Allowing placing, moving and rotating objects in 3D space quite easy and very fast makes SpaceNavigator an unique device for all 3D Designers. All you need is several days of practice to get familiar with SpaceNavigator habitats.

Cooperation of SpaceNavigator and famous Google Earth worth of additional chapter. This incredible program that make you almost almighty in your ability to see the world becomes even better with SpaceNavigator. This small device makes your movements intuitive so you can move just there where you wanted but not in a direction mouse and keyboard allow you.

Moving and spinning, zooming and rolling on Google Earth using SpaceNavigator gives a real feeling of driving a helicopter. Just search for high mountains like Alps, Andes or Himalayas, close-up enough to be on the level of peaks and feel the fly…

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