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3D mouse

A 3D mouse is a pointing and control device specialized for movement in virtual 3D (three-dimensional) environments.

3D mouse devices have used a number of different means to control 3D movement as well as 2D pointing, including multi-axis sensors, accelerometers, IR lights and IR sensors.

A number of computer pointing devices and game controllers could be considered 3D mice.  The Wii Remote and Playstation Move are two familiar console versions. For the PC, a 3D mouse could be a standard mouse with a button to switch the axis that mouse movement translates to.

A number of companies make 3D ring mice devices, which are worn on the user’s finger and enable wireless input.  The rings typically include buttons that are pressed with the thumb. Currently available 3D ring mice include the Mycestro Wireless Air and the Genius.

One of the more successful devices in professional sectors like architecture, CAD, 3D design and 3D modeling is the 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator. The SpaceNavigator features a raising, lowering and rotating cylinder on a base designed to facilitate environmental movement and model manipulation. The original and many similar devices are still made by 3Dconnect where they still serve this niche market now with wireless versions that include more programmable buttons.

The 3D mouse has not been as successful for the PC market as it has for the gaming console, likely because a standard mouse generally works quite well for navigating in a 3D environment. While some devices can provide real productivity gains, there is a learning curve involved with getting used to them. Vendors have been unable to draw PC gamers away from the standard design in any real numbers and unable to design an alternative that consistently trumps the old tried and true mouse.

This was last updated in October 2014

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