When 3DConnexions’s SpacePilot PRO came out, I, like so many others, jumped on the bandwagon and regurgitated the info from 3DConnexion’s marketing people. I then received a physical specimen to try out and ended up writing an open letter to SolidWorks and 3DConnexion because the drivers were messed up. My settings weren’t being saved, preset buttons weren’t working. Calls to tech support were useless. Were it not for the fact that there were others having the same issues, I’d have figured it was just me. I was extremely disappointed in 3DConnexion, and I’ve been a fan for years.

Well, that’s all in the past now. 3DConnexion updated their drivers and not only fixed the issues, but they made improvements, too. Previously, the LCD screen would just show a list of commands by number. This wasn’t very helpful, especially while getting used to the new set-up. With 10 different commands available via the five buttons, you had to know that the function assigned to #6 was the secondary function under button 1 (1/6, 2/7, 3/8, 4/9, 5/10). For me, it wasn’t overly intuitive. That, though, could just be a mental limitation on my part…
Back to my point. The new driver changed the visual to this:

spacepilotpro

As you can easily see, the interface is much more intuitive. Props to the folks at 3DConnexion for hitting the nail on the head there. I believe I mentioned that I was having the same sort of settings issues with my SpacePilot. While I haven’t had a chance to check it, I suspect this latest driver version would fix them, too. Both the SpacePilot and the SpacePilot PRO use the same driver.

I like the look and feel of the SpacePilot PRO. I always had issues with the 6 buttons that run across the top of the SpacePilot. I just didn’t like the layout. This didn’t stop me from using them, but I found myself stumbling once in a while. With the positioning of the buttons on the SpacePilot PRO, this doesn’t happen. Once I was able to remember what function I’d programmed to what button, I was able to find the button with my pinky quite quickly. The same holds true for the view buttons. By having my ‘S’ key macro mapped to the SpacePilot PRO, and having the shortcut bar set up the way I want it, my hand hardly ever has to leave the SpacePilot PRO.

Aside from stumbling out of the gate with the bad drivers I’d say 3DConnexion has another success story on their hands, especially with how quickly they fixed the driver. Granted, at US$499, it’ll be out of reach for some, but if you can swing the cost I’d recommend it. Look around, you can sometimes get a demo device to give it a test drive.

3dconnexion-logo

3Dconnexion has a new controller, one that makes my SpacePilot™ seem like last year’s technology (actually, it’s about 4 years old). The SpacePilot™ PRO is, basically, a SpacePilot on steroids. 3Dconnexion took input from their customer base and have squeezed all sorts of new goodies into the SpacePilot™ PRO.

The main features they’re touting:

  • Larger Full-Color LCD Workflow Assistant
  • Quick-Navigation View Keys
  • Navigation-Settings Keys
  • Intelligent Application Function Keys
  • Six-Degrees-of-Freedom Sensor
  • Optimized Comfort Design
  • Keyboard Modifier Keys
  • Sensitivity Control Keys
  • Standard 3D Mouse Keys
  • Workflow Assistant Control Keys

A color LCD screen that not only shows you available commands, it’ll show you your inbox or upcoming meetings or tasks. You can write your own code to create your own applet as well. How about a Twitter-like app for when you have multiple designers on a project or displaying PDM status?

Dual function buttons. I liked this more than the color screen. You have your typical view buttons: Right, Front, Top and Isometric. But, by holding any button down, you get a secondary view. Top/Bottom, Right/Left, Front/Back, Iso1/Iso2. There’s also a fifth button to rotate any given view by 90° Clockwise or Counter-clockwise. All told, you can get 32 different views with 5 button. Add to that the ability to not only toggle on/off rotation, but zoom/pan as well. Man, things just keep getting better!

The function keys are now dual function as well. Granted, this only adds four more functions, but with the whole ‘S’ key thing, that should cover most all that you’d want, right?

The SpacePilot™ PRO is said to be more ergonomic than the SpacePilot™. From what I was told, 3Dconnexion’s engineers spent two months tweaking the shape until it was perfect, or at least their version of perfect. I’ll let you know if they passed of failed once I get my sticky fingers on one. I’ll also be sure to write a comprehensive review for the overall product. Being the techno-geek that I am, I can’t wait to try this one out once Mr. UPS/FedEx/Postman delivers it!:

spacepilotpro

The full press release for those who’d like to read it:

3Dconnexion Launches Its Most Powerful 3D Mouse Ever: the SpacePilot PRO

Integrated Color LCD Workflow Assistant, QuickView Navigation Technology, and Intelligent Function Keys Save Time and Reduce Interruptions

FREMONT, Calif. – April 16, 2009 – To meet the rigorous demands of design engineers working in powerful 3D applications, 3Dconnexion today announced the new SpacePilot™ PRO. The company’s flagship 3D mouse is designed to deliver advanced control of 3D models, easier access to the power of professional 3D applications, fewer interruptions in the design workflow, and superior comfort. Specifically, the SpacePilot PRO features a new color LCD Workflow Assistant, second-generation QuickView Navigation technology, Intelligent Function keys, and an improved design for enhanced comfort and control.

“3Dconnexion’s 3D mice have rewritten the rules on the way design engineers and professionals interact with 3D environments,” said Dieter Neujahr, president of 3Dconnexion. “Our new SpacePilot PRO builds on our market-leading industry experience, delivering the most powerful 3D mouse we’ve ever made. It enables increased performance that ultimately results in better designs, created in less time.”

The SpacePilot PRO 3D mouse provides the highest level of performance features ever available from 3Dconnexion, including:

- LCD Workflow Assistant: The color LCD lists function-key assignments and provides at-a-glance access to Microsoft® Outlook® e-mail, calendar and task lists, allowing professionals to access important information for a fully integrated design experience with fewer distractions. Through 3Dconnexion’s open software architecture, the workflow assistant can be further customized to meet the needs of individuals, companies and software vendors.

- Advanced MCAD Navigation: Five new dual-function QuickView Navigation keys
improve error detection, design review, and design presentation by providing one-touch access to the following views: top and bottom, right and left, front and back, two isometric views, and 90-degree view rotation of any view either clockwise or counter-clockwise – for a total of 32 views. A short press activates a key’s primary view command, while pressing and holding a key activates a secondary view command. In addition, new Navigation Setting keys offer simplified and customizable control, allowing professionals to turn pan-and-zoom, rotation and one-axis control on or off, making it easier to define navigation settings for certain work modes.

- Intelligent Function Keys: Five new fully customizable, dual-function keys offer immediate, one-touch access to 10 frequently used commands within any supported 3D application. The SpacePilot PRO automatically detects the active application and assigns appropriate function keys – whether default or customized. The color LCD denotes the function key assignments and application mode so engineers can easily identify commands and design states.

- Superior Comfort: The SpacePilot PRO has a new sculpted, soft-coated wrist rest that positions the hand in relation to the controller cap to support a balanced workflow. The micro-precision six-degrees-of-freedom sensor allows for fingertip control with minimal effort from the arm, wrist and hand, while frequently used commands are conveniently positioned at your fingertips. The intuitive and symmetrical layout of the function keys makes the device usable with either hand.

About 3Dconnexion 3D Mice

Unlike traditional mice confined to motion on one flat plane, 3Dconnexion 3D mice enable design engineers to move in all three dimensions simultaneously, using six-degrees–of-freedom sensor technology. By gently lifting, pressing and turning the controller cap, design engineers can easily pan, zoom and rotate without stopping to select commands. Using a 3D mouse together with a traditional mouse engages both hands into a balanced and cooperative work style.

3Dconnexion provides advanced and affordable 3D mice that are supported by more than 130 of today’s leading and powerful 3D applications, including Autodesk InventorTM, SolidWorksTM, CATIATM, Pro/ENGINEERTM, NXTM and Solid EdgeTM. For a complete list of applications supported by 3Dconnexion, visit www.3dconnexion.com/solutions.

Compatibility, Pricing and Availability

The SpacePilot PRO is backed by a three-year warranty, and is currently available at a suggested retail price of $499. The SpacePilot PRO is supported by Windows XP, Windows Vista®, Sun Solaris 8 (SPARC), Sun Solaris 10 (x86), and Linux® (Redhat Enterprise Linux WS 4, SuSE 9.3 or later). Linux and Solaris support workflow assistant function key assignments only.

The entire 3Dconnexion product line, including the Professional Series with the SpacePilot™ (MSRP $399) and SpaceExplorer™ (MSRP $299), and the Standard Series with the SpaceNavigator (MSRP $99) and SpaceNavigator for Notebooks (MSRP $129), are available from professional CAD resellers and major online resellers including CDW, Insight, PC Connection, and PC Mall. For a complete list of resellers or to buy directly, visit www.3Dconnexion.com.

About 3Dconnexion, a Logitech Company
3Dconnexion, a wholly owned subsidiary of Logitech (SIX: LOGN) (Nasdaq: LOGI), is the leading provider of 3D mice for 3D design and visualization. 3Dconnexion devices support today’s most popular and powerful 3D applications by offering users a more intuitive and natural way to interact with computer-generated 3D content. 3Dconnexion’s award-winning 3D mice serve a wide variety of industries and are used by 3D designers, animators and artists worldwide. 3Dconnexion is headquartered in Fremont, Calif. with European headquarters in Seefeld, Germany and offices worldwide. For more information, visit www.3Dconnexion.com.

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© 2009 3Dconnexion. All rights reserved. 3Dconnexion, the 3Dconnexion logo, and other 3Dconnexion marks are owned by 3Dconnexion and may be registered. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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