Are you a CAD or 3D design tool user feeling stuck in a rut? Do you think your creativity is being stifled by the limitations of your mouse? Don't sweat it. There has been a burst of new, innovative technology advances that promise to change how engineers interact with their longstanding 3D design tools.
It's not just 3D mice, though there have been some interesting developments on that front. Taking a page from smartphones and tablets, manufacturers are melding gesture-like capabilities into all sorts of input devices. The new features allow designers to sketch drawings or manipulate 3D models with more natural hand movements, instead of the cryptic and often complex mouse clicks traditionally associated with CAD or freeform sketch tools. Immersive 3D technologies are also becoming more accessible, bringing capabilities previously reserved for expensive virtual reality CAVEs to the desktop in affordable, turnkey offerings.
Click the image below for a slideshow of some fresh new input device ideas that may have you packing up your mouse.
The Sensable Technologies PHANTOM haptic device line allows users to touch and manipulate virtual objects. The PHANTOM Omni model, the most cost-effective one in the portfolio, offers a compact footprint, and a IEEE-1394a FireWire port interface ensures quick installation and ease-of-use. Pricing starts at around $2,400. (Source: Sensable Technologies)
Those are a lot of crazy devices. I wonder if any will "win" in the market place. I didn't notice tablet devices, except in the last slide as a secondary device. My expeience is that these are still used by those who need to draw in any detail. Do you see a future for these?
@Naperlou: I definitely see a future for tablet use among engineers, although I guess I didn't envision it as an input device. Glad you brought it up. With more and more engineers out in the field at customer sites or collaborating with design partners in the field, having the mobility and the larger real estate of a tablet platform to conduct design reviews, visualize assemblies, do conceptual sketching--all of that work is easily translated to the tablet platform thanks to the incoming slew of mobile design apps.
Steven Spielberg had it right. If you remember the futuristic 2002 movie, "Minority Report," Tom Cruise interacted with his computer in 3D fashion, mostly by pinching, drawing and waving his arms. I think this kind of technology is inevitable.
I think gesture recognition capabilities of input devices will be as revolutionary as the mouse was. The touchpad has already completely changed how I surf the web and work in my computer's OS. Gesture recognition will also be kinder to our fingers, wrists and tendons.
Beth, I was going to say that a 3D input device is going to be limited by a 2D visualization, but InfiniteZ seems to have the answer to that, with what looks like will be the "holotank" of science fiction.
Steven Speilberg must have gotten a glimpse at his buddy Steve Job's early work in gesture interfaces for the iPhone and subsquent iPad. On a serious note, it's pretty crazy that what was considered out there 10 years ago is now pretty mainstream. All you have to do is hand an iPhone to a four-year-old and right off the bat, they intuitively know how to size and scroll through screens with gestures and pinch movements.
I think that as people get more accustomed to these new movements, it just becomes a more natural way of interesting with the computer. I've tried to use my daughter's laptop (which is my old MacBook) and I immediately get stymied because the gesturing and pinching movements supported by my new MacBook and that now don't seem strange to me at all, don't work on her system.
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