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SpaceMouse Wireless review - update

By Jahirul Amin

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Date Added: 30th October 2013

SpaceMouse Wireless is the world's first 3D mouse! We put it to the test to see what it has to offer artists working with 3D software, such as Maya and 3ds Max.


Product: SpaceMouse Wireless

Company: 3Dconnexion

Website: www.3dconnexion.com

Key features:

* World's first wireless 3D mouse
* 6 degrees-of-freedom technology
* Up to one month battery life (based on 8 hours usage per day, 5 days a week)

Star Rating: 4.25 / 5

Review update - November 2013:

Over the past two weeks or so I've been working alongside 3Dconnexion to try and resolve some of the problems I had with the SpaceMouse Wireless when I first reviewed it back in October (see below).

The main problem was the radial buttons, which couldn't be set in Maya. Since the review was first published on 3dtotal, the 3Dconnexion team has fixed the problem. Amazing! It seems that when I updated the drivers, some metadata was left over and caused the SpaceMouse not to function as it should. But now that all is well - and I can tell you that I am a very happy man! It's amazing how having the ability to use an extra couple of buttons really does grip you that much more!

The amount of times I now head for the keyboard has been reduced greatly (obviously, I still need to go there for all other shortcuts) and overall this creates a much more enjoyable and fuller experience. I've switched the radial buttons to act as Shift and Alt and can now access many of the marking menus that I tend to use whilst modelling in Maya.

The SpaceMouse also works in the orthographic views now, so again, it's a big thumbs up to the 3Dconnexion team for resolving this! It's great to see a company jump on to problems so fast and the manner in which they have acted to resolve the issue has been fantastic.

It's now super easy to configure the radial buttons of the SpaceMouse in Maya to your needs!

Original review - October 2013:

A week or so ago the postman very kindly handed me the latest addition to 3Dconnexion's mouse range: the SpaceMouse Wireless. I thought I'd share my thoughts on how I found this product in some of the Media and Entertainment packages that it supports, with a particular focus on Maya.

The SpaceMouse Wireless is a physically beautiful little product. Small and compact, it should fit nicely on anyone's desk, and with its stable, solid base you should have no problem with it slipping and sliding as you navigate using it. Also, as this is the first wireless mouse of its kind, there is no need to worry about cables hanging around. The two buttons on the side are easily accessible and the logo on the top is clear so you can orient the 3D mouse in the correct direction.

Now I should note, for those who are unaware of 3Dconnexion products, the SpaceMouse and its comrades (the SpacePilot Pro, SpaceMouse Pro etc) are not intended to replace the usual mouse but work alongside it. You continue to use the original mouse for pointing and clicking whilst the SpaceMouse handles navigation. And boy, does it handle navigation.

"It really did change my experience of navigating and assessing assets in the 3D viewport"

With its 6-degrees-of-freedom (6dof) patented technology, you can zoom, pan and rotate with ease. And all these movements can be done simultaneously. No longer are you restricted to navigating in one degree at a time as you would be using a keyboard modifier and one of the mouse buttons.

The first time I used the SpaceMouse, it pretty much blew my mind; the feeling was alien, but in a good way. It was just as if I was physically in the 3D viewport with the 3D assets. That may sound odd, but it really did change my experience of navigating and assessing assets in the 3D viewport. It makes the experience of working in a 3D environment that much more immersive.

Customising the SpaceMouse radial buttons to suit my needs in 3ds Max

Getting accustomed to using the SpaceMouse did not take very long either. I did initially plan to create a 3D environment to fly through on day one and then try again a week later to see if I had got any better at using the SpaceMouse. However, come day two and it had all already slotted into place, so that plan went out the window.

"When it comes to navigation, this product kicks some serious butt!"

My kids (aged 3 and 9) also spotted it on the table and had a go at using it. I've been trying to get them into using 3D packages, and getting them comfortable with navigating in 3D space using the usual keyboard and mouse combo has not been so straightforward. With the SpaceMouse in their hand, they jumped straight in and operated more confidently.

But back to the big kid (me) and without a doubt when it comes to navigation, this product kicks some serious butt. No question there. Unfortunately, I did have a few issues with the mouse regarding how it works with Maya and also between the Mac and Windows versions of Maya, though...

Firstly, on a Windows version of Maya, I found it worked just fine and dandy in a perspective camera or any newly created camera, but did not seem to function in any of the orthographic views. On a Mac version on the other hand, it worked perfectly in all views. Updating the drivers and trying older drivers did not seem to fix the problem here.

Top view of the pretty little SpaceMouse

Setting the radial menu buttons that live either side of the mouse to keyboard modifiers also seemed problematic. This was the case on both the Mac and Windows version of Maya. Small issues like these really forced my hand back towards the keyboard, after which I would fall into my old ways of using the Alt key to navigate instead. Doing so made me realise how un-intuitive navigating with the Alt key and the mouse buttons really was so I had this constant war going on between my left hand, the SpaceMouse and the keyboard. It seems like this problem could be fixed very simply and when it is done, my left hand will be very firmly attached to the SpaceMouse.

I also decided to try out the SpaceMouse in a few other packages such as 3ds Max, Photoshop and Firefox to name a few. In doing so, I found it to be set up to function better in some packages than others. For example, in 3ds Max it worked like a charm: no navigation issues in different views and radial buttons worked a treat. Everything seemed A-okay. In Photoshop also, you could use it to zoom and pan with ease and the same goes for Firefox. (Google Earth was a fantastic ride to use with the SpaceMouse as well!). It's also nice to go between packages without having to adjust to the custom navigation of the package.

Using the radial buttons in Firefox to switch in and out of full screen mode

Being a regular user of Maya and Softimage, the SpaceMouse saves my poor brain from accidently hitting the Alt key to navigate in Softimage and hitting the S key to navigate in Maya. So again, that's a big thumbs up! Another plus is that it's small enough to be portable, and the dongle to kick off its wireless feature is small enough that it fits snugly into a USB port, which stops you worrying that you may accidently knock it and break it, which is a fate befallen many a gig stick.

Overall, I think the SpaceMouse handles navigation superbly, though it could do with some minor tweaks to really make it shine in packages like Maya. As a final note I would like to mention that this review does not cover how it fits in with CAD software such as Rhino and SolidWorks. However, from what I have seen online, it does look like it handles like a beast in those packages.

System requirements

Minimum System Requirements
* Windows XP Professional (SP2, SP3), Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (RTM, SP2 and SP3)
* Windows Vista (RTM, SP1 and SP2, all editions)
* Windows 7 (RTM and SP1, all editions)
* AIX 5.2 ML04 or newer
* HP-UX 11 or newer
* Linux Redhat Enterprise WS 4, 5, Novell SuSE Linux 9.3, 10, 11
* Sun Solaris 9/04 or newer, Sun Solaris 10 (x86/x64)
* USB port

MAC Requirements
* Apple OS X 10.8
* Apple OS X 10.7
* Apple OS X 10.6

Related links

SpaceMouse Wireless
The 3D mouse in media and entertainment
3Dconnexion on YouTube

To see more by Jahirul Amin, check out Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
and 3ds Max Projects

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Erich Smith on Fri, 20 March 2015 10:22pm
I use mac osx 10.9xxx. Maya rhino zbrush photoshop. I have a 3dconnexion space pilot pro. I don't know if this is worth the closet space it occupies.
Admin on Fri, 29 November 2013 2:08pm
Hi there! Thanks for your comment. We have checked with 3Dconnexion on your problem and they have told us that "there is no need for an internet connection for our devices to work. We do not know what issues the user experienced and (without reference numbers) cannot check his history with our technical support team." So if you get in touch with Lynette at lynette[at]3dtotal[dot]com she can put you in contact with someone at 3Dconnexion to discuss the problem you were having. Thanks!
Kanaa Bogart on Tue, 26 November 2013 3:21pm
It also needs an internet connection.(not stated in requirements) Some of us work with totally disconnected machines. I bought one and there was no way to get it to work in 3dmax without such connections. Drivers provided by support dodnt help, and after that I got ignored. I sent it back.
Aaron Shively on Wed, 30 October 2013 1:08pm
Hey, just a heads up, you say that you've used this product on the Mac, but you have no Mac OS in the minimum requirements section. Could be a bit confusing.
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