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The SpaceMouse Wireless

A product review by Michael Anonuevo

 

Introduction

It’s been three weeks now since the SpaceMouse Wireless was released on October 1, 2013. The SpaceMouse Wireless is 3Dconnexion’s latest product. It is the world’s first wireless 3D mouse that provides users with 3Dconnexion’s superior and proven 3D navigation technology _without the restriction of the cord!

01 Opening

Being part of a select group of 3Dconnexion beta testers, I was sent a demo model a few days before the new 3D mouse was announced. To come up with this review, I temporarily replaced my SpacePilot Pro with the SpaceMouse Wireless and used it in an actual Revit project. For those who have not tried a 3D device, please check out the links to several articles I’ve written on all of 3Dconnexion’s products at the end of this article. For experienced users, here’s a close look at this wonderful new 3D mouse.

Unpacking the Box

The SpaceMouse Wireless (SW) box was packaged inside a 6.5” x 6.5” x 6.5” corrugated mailing box, protected by crushed brown papers.

02 Mail Packaging

The white box has the same size used in the SpaceNavigator. However, inside it are two packaging materials stacked on top of each other.

03 Two Packaged Items

The top box consists of a CD containing the driver, a USB cable, and a micro USB receiver:

04 Top Box Contents w text

At the bottom is a recyclable molded paper pulp container containing the SW, contained inside a thin bag made of foam material:

05 SW Box Contents

My Initial impression of the SpaceMouse Wireless (SW)

Shapes, as in cars or other products, evolve due to current trends or improvements in design. The base of the SW has a rounded square shape with curved sides. This results in a wider footprint and therefore, a more stable hold on any surface. Of course, how a product design is perceived is subjective. The wired SpaceNavigator, with its rounded base, also has a nice look to it.

06 Size Comparison

Nevertheless, the SW has a sleek, stylish, and modern but functional design. The size of the micro receiver is the same as found in popular wireless mice _small, with just a slight protrusion when plugged into a USB port. It can be left plugged in a laptop for users on the go.

07 The SW & Receiver

Specifications

  • 3Dconnexion six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) sensor
  • 3Dconnexion 2.4GHz wireless technology
  • Lithium-ion polymer battery
  • Micro-USB connectivity (USB receiver and recharging cable supplied)
  • Simultaneous use of the device and recharging
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 78 x 78 x 54mm / 3.1 x 3.1 x 2.1 in.
  • Weight: 424g / 0.96 lbs.
  • 2-year warranty

Supported Operating Systems

  • Microsoft Windows 8 and 8.1 x86 and x64 (all editions; RTM)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 (all editions; RTM and SP1)
  • Windows Vista x86 and x64 (all editions; RTM, SP1 and SP2)
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (SP1, SP2)
  • Windows XP Professional (SP2, SP3)
  • Mac OS X 10.6 to v. 10.8
  • Linux

 

Features

The two constant features found on all of 3Dconnexion devices are:

1. The patented Six Degrees of Freedom:

This is 3Dconnexion’s micro precision sensor technology that gives users the ability to move a model in all directions. The technology features six high performance optical sensors which react to the controller cap’s movements in the micrometer range.

08 6DOF_Technology

2. The controller cap:

The controller cap is the round protruding joystick-like handle that is used to navigate a 3D model. It has four vertical orientation ridges on its sides that act as grips as you maneuver the cap when viewing a 3D model.

09 ridges

Here are the various ways the controller cap can be maneuvered to go to a specific view:

10 6motions

The differences between the models are the base where the controller cap sits on top of and the number of programmable buttons. The SW contains two buttons that can each be assigned with a Revit keyboard shortcut. However, the addition of the new Radial Menu feature expands the functionality of the two buttons to access eight commands as explained later in this article.

Connecting the SW

After installing the latest driver and plugging the micro receiver, I oriented the SW so that the On/Off switch faces the screen monitor. The switch is on the bezel of the base. Below it is the micro USB port.

11 On-Off Switch

After sliding the switch to the On position, the familiar blue led light underneath the controller cap lit, together with the green On led light indicator located in the front (below the 3Dconnexion logo):

12 Two LED Lights On

After about 7 seconds, the blue led light faded away followed by the green led light. These led lights were designed to automatically turn off after a few seconds to conserve battery life. However, when the USB cord is connected for recharging the SW, both lights remain on all the time.

The Two Side Buttons

The two side buttons are larger than those found in the SpaceNavigator. The shape is rectangular and there is a definite click that you can feel and hear when you click a button.

The Base

The SW weighs a hefty 0.96 lbs. The base is made of brushed aluminum. Underneath it is a non-skid rubber base. In the middle of the base are the P/N & PID numbers.

13 Base

Wireless Technology

The SW uses 3Dconnexion’s propriety 2.4GHz wireless technology featuring the following:

  • A special sensor to ensure real-time control (no latency or delay).
  • An optimized transceiver and antenna design for a reliable connection.
  • Human hand presence detection for extended battery life, even in idle use.
  • Auto-zeroing feature: this enables the SW to be switched on in any position without causing sensor calibration issues.
  • Multi 3Dconnexion device support: this allows unlimited devices to share the same USB receiver.

Note: The SW can be used up to 32 ft. (10 meters) away from its USB receiver.

The Battery

The SW uses an internal Lithium-ion polymer battery that can be operated up to one month before it requires charging. The battery can be fully recharged within two hours using the supplied micro-USB cable. While charging, the SW is still fully operational.

Note: Battery life of up to 1 month is based on 8 hours use per day, 5 days per week.

The percentage of charge left in the battery can be viewed by hovering the cursor over the 3Dconnexion icon at the bottom right of the taskbar. It is also indicated in the 3Dconnexion properties dialog box. To maximize the battery life, 3Dconnexion recommends that the SW be turned off when not in use.

The Radial Menus

This is a new software driver feature that adds additional functionalities to the two side buttons. When either one of the two buttons is clicked, a radial menu appears at the tip of the cursor wherever it is located on the screen. This menu contains four quadrants that display four user-configurable Revit commands. By default, 3Dconnexion has assigned the following commands to the radial menus:

14 Default RM commands

Customizing the radial menu is accomplished by clicking the Properties dialog box, accessed from the system tray notification area, the navigation bar, or from the bottom quadrant command of the left button default radial menu (shown above left). 3Dconnexion has revamped the user interface of the Properties dialog box into a simple and more user-friendly style.

15 Parts of Properties dialog box

Here are the parts of the dialog box:

1. Active application: any customization of the radial menu applies only to the application indicated
2. Device flyout arrow: when there is more than one 3Dconnexion device plugged into the computer, clicking the fly out arrow displays the current device from the pop up list.
3. Battery charge indicator
4. Speed: this slider allows you to set the overall speed of the 3D mouse. Basically, it changes the amount of force applied to the controller cap to move a 3D component or building model.
5. Advanced Settings: this button opens the Advanced Settings dialog box containing specific navigation settings as shown below:

16 Advanced Settings

6. Buttons: clicking this box opens the Buttons dialog box that assigns the functions of the two side buttons:

17 Buttons Dialog Box

Clicking either the LEFT or RIGHT fly out arrow opens a pop up list consisting of six submenus:

18 Fly out Submenus

These submenus are described as follows:

  • 3Dconnexion: this submenu consists of 12 specific 3Dconnexion commands including Properties (opens the Properties dialog box) & Virtual NumPad.

Note: Virtual NumPad is a feature introduced in the SpaceMouse Pro that displays a numeric keypad on the screen. For example, when a temporary dimension value is selected for editing, the Virtual NumPad appears at the bottom right of the selected value when the command is invoked. Thereafter, the cursor can be used to select a new value from the Virtual NumPad. This frees you from typing the values from your keyboard.

 19 Virtual NumPad

  • Application Specific: this submenu consists of 30 most commonly used Revit commands such as: Default 3D View, Fit, Graphic Display Options, Thin lines toggle, Visibility/Graphics, Shaded model display, etc.
  • Keyboard: this consists of the four keyboard modifier keys: Alt, Ctrl, Esc, and Shift keys
  • Macros: this is where default or custom Revit commands are set, displayed, edited or deleted.

 20 Macros

Clicking New Macro opens the Macro Editor dialog box where the name of the macro and its key combination are entered.

 21 Macro Editor

Note: A custom Revit command has to be assigned in Revit first before it can be added as a key combination.

  • Other: this submenu consists of Toggle 2D Mouse Mode. What this does is turn the function of the SW into a regular 2D mouse where the two side buttons function as Left or Right buttons, while the controller cap acts as the middle wheel.
  • Radial Menus: this is where default and custom Radial menus are named, configured, displayed, edited or deleted. It consists of four default radial menus and an item called New Radial Menu where custom radial menus can be configured.

 22 Radial Menus

Setting up a new radial menu is accomplished by selecting New Radial Menu. This opens the Radial Menu Editor. In the dialog box, a name must be assigned to the new radial menu. Otherwise, a default name is applied (MenuRM1, etc.). The right side contains four fields that can be assigned Revit commands that correspond to the radial menu quadrants. To add a command, simply click the fly out arrow on the right side of a text field and choose a command contained in any of the submenus.

 23 Radial Menu Editor

And so, the new Properties dialog box user interface makes it easy to add and customize Revit macros and radial menus. Users have the option to invoke one specific command for each of the two buttons, or expand its functionalities by having eight additional commands through the radial menus. While the radial menu process involves two clicks to invoke a command, it is still faster than leaving the mouse and the SW to look at the keyboard and type the commands.

 

Pricing

The SpaceMouse Wireless is available online at 3Dconnexion website (http://www.3dconnexion.com/buy/shop.html) and Amazon for $129.00. Prices differ from other online stores. B & H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=spacemouse+wireless&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=) is selling it for $112.00. Your local CAD reseller may have them available.

Replaceable parts can also be purchased from 3Dconnexion and priced as follows:

·         Micro USB cord: $5.00

·         Micro USB Receiver: $10.00

 

Conclusion

I highly recommend the SpaceMouse Wireless. It is a welcome addition to those who already own any 3Dconnexion device. It does not replace the SpacePilot or the SpaceMouse Pro. I still prefer my SpacePilot Pro because a single click on any of its buttons invokes a command. However, I would take along the SW with my laptop for presentations and meetings. The SW is great for project managers and the production team. For those who have not ventured into the world of 3D devices, the SpaceMouse Wireless is an excellent starter. I urge you to try it or any of the 3Dconnexion products. Using a 3D mouse enables you to be immersed in your 3D model. The smooth navigation on screen is such an exhilarating experience. Instead of the awkward keyboard combinations with the mouse, you hold the controller cap with one hand to maneuver, analyze and study your model. If you’re a serious 3D modeler, you got to have one.

Here are links to my reviews of all 3Dconnexion devices:

http://clubrevit.com/2011/06/15/will-revit-users-fly-with-this-device/

http://clubrevit.com/2011/07/25/3dconnexion-invasion-of-planet-revit/

http://www.revitcommunity.com/feature_article.php?cpfeatureid=71473&g=fe2cdb48-21e7-11e2-939d-d067e5ed2a35

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this product review!

Michael Anonuevo
www.littledetailscount.com

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