Three things I wish I’d known earlier about the Space Navigator and Second Life

Today I’m going to tell you three important things I’ve learned about configuring the Space Navigator for Second Life in my past week of experimentation. I found it a very easy device to use out of the box, but an extremely complex device to configure. And the Second Life interface makes it doubly so! (If you want to see something scary, open Preferences, Advanced, Other Devices in SL. There you will find the Joystick Configuration menu, which is where you configure the Space Navigator. Looks like tons of fun doesn’t it? LOL)

This post will be short — just to let you in on three underlying concepts I discovered that I really wish I’d known when I started out with the Space Navigator. It would have made the learning curve so-o-o-o much shorter. These are basic things, but not even Beast Linden’s video here or Torley’s videos here make them clear — at least to a novice space traveler like me. (Those vids do give a great introduction, however.)

It’s true that you can use the Space Nav out of the box pretty easily without much configuration at all — just use the defaults. But if you’re going in for specialized building or machinima, or if like me you’re trying to use it for physical reasons such as decreasing hand use — you’ll want to do a custom configuration.

I spent the past week experimenting with various ways of configuring this rascal because I hurt my hand, and I had hoped that this device would let me navigate and build in Second Life without the hand-intensive combined keyboard commands or onscreen interfaces. (Well, that turned out not to be true — because of #1 below. But the Space Nav does make navigation and object handling way easier.)

Btw, for anyone who hasn’t heard of the the Space Nav, it is a navigation device made by a company called 3DConnexion, in partnership with SL, used for navigating 3D spaces in varied worlds. Look for my post soon about exploring Google Earth with it — talk about virtual travel! I think I’ll set up a tour company – LOL!

Now here are the Three Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier:

  1. Don’t mistake the Space Navigator for a mouse (as I did when ordering). It is not a mouse, despite the fact that many reviews and videos refer to it as such. It is a navigation device, not a selection device. Mice today do both, so you see how the misunderstanding arises. But the Space Navigator only navigates — hence its name. (There is one exception in SL building, but more on that in a later post). You will still need a mouse or trackpad to select objects and actions in SL, such as Edit, Take, Build, Sit, etc. Plan to use your Space Nav in conjunction with your mouse or trackpad.
  2. Y and Z axes are reversed. In the Space Navigator interface, Y and Z axes are reversed from what they are in Second Life. This was perhaps the most difficult thing for me to get. But once I did, my experience of the Space Navigator became 100% easier. Here’s the thing: In Second Life, the Y axis is the plane on which an object or avatar moves forward and backward. However in the Space Navigator, the Y axis goes up and down. Conversely, in Second Life the Z axis is the plane on which an avatar or an object moves up and down. However, in the Space Navigator, the Z axis goes forward and back. Confusing, huh? You bet. Especially when you start fiddling with the configuration menus, in which you define the degree of movement of all axes in varied directions! I am still hoping that i will find a way to reconfigure this in the Space Nav — if anyone knows how, please comment and let us all know!
  3. There are two interfaces for configuring the Space Nav in SL: (1) The Mac system interface, accessed (after you install the Space Nav software) at System Preferences, Other, 3DConnexion (sorry, I am totally Windows-ignorant and have no idea about the interface there), and (2) The SL interface, accessed at Preferences, Advanced, Other Devices. These two interfaces overlap, but they each do different things, too. So plan on using them both and distinguishing between what they do.

Well, that’s all I’m going to say for now, chickadees. In another post soon, I will discuss all the ins and outs of configuring the Space Nav in SL — and it is a-maze-ing!

Respond to this post