3D Spaces - 3D Mice

Table of contents:

3D Spaces - 3D Mice
3D Spaces - 3D Mice

Video: 3D Spaces - 3D Mice

Video: 3D Spaces - 3D Mice
Video: 3D Space Mouse: Overrated Accessory! 2023, March

When I was designing in 2D in AutoCAD, positioning was simple: two directions for placing the drawing and a mouse wheel for zooming in / out. When I decided to master 3D CAD, I literally immediately faced the question: "How to rotate a 3D model and place assembly components using a mouse that moves in only two planes?" As I mastered the application, I came across features such as 3D Orbit, Object View, Show Selected, and other tools for working with 3D models, then a set of hotkeys for positioning … But the feeling of what could be like- then in a different way, it has not disappeared. After a while, I got acquainted with the SpaceMouse Classic 3D mouse (now it is no longer available). The idea of performing the actions of moving the model with the hand free from the mouse came to my liking. True, at first it did not work very well: the model flew off the edge of the screen, then turned "crookedly", but after 15 minutes it behaved like a silk one. Now it has come to the point that if I don't have my usual 3D mouse under my left hand when designing, it becomes uncomfortable to work. Moreover, working with two hands is very time-saving. In this article I will try to explain in detail what 3D mice are and how they simplify the work of a person working with 3D.

A 3D mouse is a manipulator that is a 3D positioning device with a joystick for working in 3D design systems or in applications that require control over the movement of objects in 3D space. The manipulator is installed on the other side of the keyboard from the mouse. Thus, while the right hand is performing operations with a regular mouse, the left can manipulate the 3D mouse. Of course, this algorithm of work is assumed for right-handed people, for left-handed hands are reversed (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. Position of hands while using mouse and pointing device

Who needs 3D mice? This question is easy to answer - for everyone who uses 3D applications. Some of the applications and programs are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Scopes and applications for 3D mice

3D mice support more than 120 applications of such operating systems as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, UNIX. Recently, there have been trends in the use of 3D mice in the gaming industry.

The use of 3D mice allows many operations to be performed in parallel (for example, rotating a model with a 3D manipulator and choosing a design tool with a 2D mouse), which significantly saves time. The diagram below (Figure 2) demonstrates the workflow with and without a 3D manipulator.


Fig. 2. Scheme of time saving when working only with a two-dimensional mouse (above) and while working with a 3D manipulator (below)

The main element of a 3D mouse is a motion controller, which in all models has the same operating principle. Six degrees of freedom (three linear and three angular) provide movement and rotation of the model in all directions. In this case, you can turn off the degrees of freedom, invert the axes, swap the Zoom / Remove and Up / Down functions. The travel / rotation speed depends on the force applied to the motion controller. Force sensitivity is configurable via the settings panel.

At the moment, there are four models of the device. Their main characteristics are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Main characteristics of 3D mouse models

Autodesk Inventor


AutoCAD Mechanical



AutoCAD Architecture


AutoCAD Map 3D

AutoCAD Civil 3D

Google Earth

3D design / modeling

Autodesk 3ds Max

Autodesk 3ds Max Design

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk MotionBuilder

Autodesk AliasStudio


Number of keys, pcs.




Weight, g.



593 (USB), 619 (Serial)



Dimensions (length x width x height), mm






The SpaceNavigator for Notebooks and SpaceNavigator models have two buttons that can be assigned to call two different application functions or the required keyboard shortcut (for example, ALT + TAB). In addition, if an application has different work environments, then two individual tools can be assigned to each of them. For example, when working in the Sketch environment of Autodesk Inventor, you can assign tools such as Circle and Line, and when working in the Assembly environment, Insert Component and Constraints. At the same time, it is very simple to reassign functions: just open the Settings Panel, select a category, and then move the required command to the area of the corresponding key (Fig. 3).


Fig. 3. Procedure for assigning "hot" keys on a 3D mouse

In models such as SpaceExplorer and SpacePilot, there are many more keys (Fig. 4).


Fig. 4. Groups of keys on models SpaceExplorer (left) and SpacePilot (right)

On devices, they are divided into groups:

1) the "modifier" keys ESC, SHIFT, CTRL and ALT, which work in the same way as the corresponding keys on the keyboard;

2) a group of Top, Right, Left and Front keys that provide access to traditional projections (front, right, left, top view) of the three-dimensional model. When working in 3D mode, it is possible to turn on 2D mode for fast movement, enlargement or reduction of projections;

3) the Fit key (Show all) zooms the 3D model so that it is fully displayed in the graphics window;

4) the Panel key calls the settings panel, through which functions are reassigned and the device is configured;

5) the "+" and "-" keys adjust the sensitivity of the motion controller to force;

6) two customizable keys that can be assigned to two different application tools;

7) the Dom key enables / disables the function of moving the model at a time in only one axis;

8) six programmable buttons;

9) LCD display, which displays the names of the tools assigned to the programmable buttons;

10) Config key, which allows changing the sets of six programmable buttons.

For example, when working in the Assembly environment, Set-1 may include tools such as Insert Component, Constraints, Copy, etc., and Set-2 in the same environment may include Array, Mirrored Components, etc. etc. The number of formed sets is not limited (I had the patience to create 300, hardly anyone might need more). For those who are uncomfortable with the default key commands numbered 1-3, it is possible to change them (for example, 15 unique tools can be assigned to the "Build 300" set).


Fig. 5. Assigning unique commands to keys

In fig. 6 clearly illustrates the advantage of using a 3D mouse for a small task in three different CAD applications. As follows from the graphs, the design time was reduced by 37%, and the "mileage" of the mouse - by 47%.

Those who work in 3D applications know that time is of the essence in a project, and 3D manipulators save that time.


Fig. 6. Graphs "mileage" and design time. The upper scale is 2D mouse, the lower scale is 3D mouse.

A little about the most technologically advanced mouse


The most technologically advanced mouse to date is the SpacePilot PRO. This model deserves detailed consideration. From its predecessor, the SpacePilot model, it inherited all the best and, in addition, acquired many new possibilities. Let's dwell on them in more detail.

The model has a second position sensor that can detect a deflection of 4 microns (about 1/25 the thickness of a human hair). This naturally allows the mouse to be positioned as precisely as possible.

There are more buttons on the device and many of them have two functions - depending on which press was made, long or short. For example, a short press on the 90 degree rotate button will rotate the model clockwise, while a long press will rotate it counterclockwise.

Thanks to these features, there are many more standard views. The model can now be viewed from the front / back, top / bottom, left / right, in two isometric views, as well as rotated clockwise and counterclockwise.

There are essentially 10 function keys: each of the 5 keys has two functions due to a short or long key press.


But most of all, the large color display attracts attention. Now you can not only read the names of the tools assigned to the function keys, but also view mail, calendar and Outlook tasks, as well as read RSS.

In general, the new mouse has a wider useful functionality and deserves to be a faithful companion of a 3D specialist.

/ Author: Alexey Sidorov /

Popular by topic