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Sketchup-ur-space Magazine - June 14

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The SpaceNavigator remains the best way to use Google Earth

With the LeapMotion finally launching soon (hopefully), I thought it’d be fun to once again take a look at the current king of Google Earth controls — the 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator.

It’s been nearly seven years since Frank introduced the SpaceNavigator to all of us, and I thought it was time to give it another look. I mentioned a while ago (in the comments) that the iPhone version of Google Earth (with multi-touch control) was similar to using a SpaceNavigator when compared to the single-touch version on Google Android devices (which has long since incorporated multi-touch as well). I thought I should explain what a SpaceNavigator actually is for those that don’t yet know.

In a nutshell, the SpaceNavigator is a 3D mouse. Rather than having to pan, then zoom, then pan a little more, then tilt, etc, you can do it all in one motion. You can zoom in, while panning, while tilting a little more, to really feel like you’re flying around the world. I’ve told many people that using the SpaceNavigator made Google Earth feel brand new again.

You can get a pretty good idea of what it can do by watching this video that Frank made a while ago that showed off some of the basic features of it:

You can also check out his review of Disney World 3D, which was done using the SpaceNavigator:

To be honest, I expected that we’d see some competition to the SpaceNavigator by now, and perhaps the Leap Motion is finally it. A year after the SpaceNavigator came out, Sandio released their “3D O2 mouse”, which was supposed to be even better — you could use it as a mouse, but it also had various 3D control sticks on it. However, it was a piece of junk and the SpaceNavigator remained king.

Here we are years later and I still use mine every day. It’s a wonderful tool, and Google Earth simply wouldn’t be the same without it. It works for Windows and Mac, and you can pick one up at the 3DConnexion online store, or at a handful of specialty retailers.

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