In the real world, if we want to get a good look at something we can walk over, pick it up, and look at it from every angle. Now, thanks to the Spaceball 4000 FLX motion controller from Labtec, Vancouver, Wash., engineers can examine their 3D designs much the same way.

Whether creating 3D models in CAD/CAM or CAE, setting up computer animations, or interacting within a virtual 3D space, the new device lets designers simultaneously pan, zoom, and rotate 3D objects in every direction with pinpoint

10-bit precision. Further, the system is said to be a more natural way to work than using a common interface which requires the user to make a conscious decision, then execute keystrokes and/or click a mouse to make a move. Because the Spaceball can be used simultaneously with a mouse, designers can literally do two things at once using the mouse to manipulate the menu and the Spaceball to move the model.

Engineers can manipulate the menu using a traditional mouse, while at the same time, move the model using the spaceball.

Additionally, the ergonomic Spaceball has a natural feeling and can be used for 8 hr, without stressing wrists and arms.

Using the controller is said to be easy. Engineers simply rest their wrists on an adjustable pad and place fingers gently on the PowerSensor ball. The ball senses pressure when pushed, pulled, and twisted, then uses that information to move the model on the screen.

Similarly, to orient a model, simply twist the ball in any direction to rotate it about the X, Y, or Z axis. Engineers can control up to

1,024 speeds in proportion to the pressure they apply.

A new, universal software driver and graphical user interface, among other things, provides up to 23 customized programmable software functions.