The computer mouse was designed to control a pointer on a 2-D desktop, not to navigate virtual worlds like Second Life or other 3-D environments. 3Dconnexion’s new controller has a cap you can lift or depress, slide from side to side, tilt, or twist, and some combination of those actions will let you move in any direction in a 3-D environment or manipulate 3-D objects. And because the device is pressure sensitive, it also lets you control rate of movement.
In April, Linden Lab’s Second Life upgraded its software to support the year-old Space Navigator, which also works with about 130 other applications, including Google Earth. Intended to supplement an ordinary mouse, the Space Navigator frees the user from having to switch back and forth from mouse to keyboard, thereby avoiding stops and starts that can be awkward when navigating a 3-D space. The user controls movement through the Space Navigator with his nondominant hand and employs the regular mouse to take actions within the space. This device system works particularly well with Second Life’s recent support for voice communication, which, combined with the Space Navigator, makes it possible for a user to move and interact within the virtual world without having to utilize the keyboard at all.