There isn't a lot of hardware out there for 3D programs. Really it comes down to having a good wheel mouse, keyboard, and a few monitors. A few years ago I heard about a device called a 3D mouse. My geek sense kicked into high gear and I started searching around for one. I stumbled upon the 3D Connexion Space Navigator. This amazing little device allowed me to "grab onto" my 3D models and work with them almost as if I was holding them. Recently, the folks over at 3D Connexion were kind enough to send over a SpaceExplorer for me to try out. Read on to find out how I liked it:
The 3D Connexion line of 3D mice all have one thing in common: the "cap" in the middle. This cap is what you grab onto to move about in 3D space. You can move the cap in six directions. This allows incredibly fluid and intuitive control of where you are in 3D. Within minutes of using this thing you will be flying around your models just like Superman, no phone booth or cape needed.
After using it for a while, you will notice that you hardly need to pick your hand up off of it when you are modeling. Your motion throughout your model is so much smoother. The way this thing gets you around really allows you to access places and get views that would normally be far more challenging. If you've ever modeled in the interior of something in Sketchup, you know that when something gets in front of your view, it's frustrating to get away from it. Usually you have to bail and do "Zoom Extents". Not with this gadget!
Check out this video I made of me using it:
The 3D Connexion mice also offer fine grained tuning of just about every function imaginable. From motion speed, to macros, you can control it all. It even automatically switches presets for each application you are in. For those of you that don't think glowing blue lights are cool, you can even turn that off. (Lets be honest, you aren't going to do that, are you?)
I love this thing. It has made me faster and more efficient. It's also an excellent presentation tool because it allows you to make presentations less "herky jerky" and more smooth and immersive. Just don't try to re-create the Star Wars trench run scene unless your viewers have strong stomachs!