What’s 3D mouse will you ask? This time around, this is not an Air Mouse that can be waved like a remote. Instead Lexip’s 3DM Pro looks like a regular mouse, except that it comes with additional controls and sensors that give you 6 degrees of freedom. In addition to being able to pan on a 2D plane like any mouse, the 3DM pro also has a mechanism that lets you control the Yaw (x-axis) and the Roll (z-axis, looking forward) by simply applying pressure to the front, back, left or right side of the mouse. An additional joystick placed on the right thumb (if you are right-handed) lets you control the Pitch (y-axis, looking up).
It was originally built for computer assisted design (CAD) applications to let users manipulate and move around 3D scenes with more easy and productivity. Lexip has also been looking at making a consumer friendly version that is less expensive (around $100 versus $200 for the pro) and aimed at making gaming and things like Google Earth easier to use. About the price difference, Lexip points out that while the hardware is very similar, the Pro version comes with a much tighter integration to CAD software packages (they support most of them) which requires much more work from their software team.
I’ve tried it for a few minutes, and found the CAD implications to be easy to understand. This avoids a lot of use of the ALT and Shift keys as you don’t have to switch between “rotating mode” into “panning mode” into “translation mode” while controlling the viewport. I found it a bit hard to tilt forward without clicking the mouse buttons accidentally, but I guess (hope!) that you just need some practice.
There is a potential for games like FPS as you can either use the extra controls for motion or simply to switch weapons. One could also think that it might help in RTS games where it can help you zoom in and out and rotate the battlefield, again, without having to “switch mode”. Now, the hard part is to get game developers to use the SDK and actually integrate this into their products.