Deride the mouse as you will. When it comes to two-dimensional control, the device is pretty amazing. It’s a reasonable way of amplifying small hand gestures into bigger gestures on a 2D plane. But what about 3D interfaces? Suddenly, the mouse becomes like playing charades, telling someone else what to do in a universe with an extra dimension.
What you need is interfaces that make sense in 3D. Some of these interfaces are out there; the missing link has been intelligent connections to software. To see how powerful this can be, look no further than Camera GripTools, a motion capture system for Maxon’s Cinema 4D modeling tool.
It works with a variety of devices:
- Behringer BCF2000 MIDI fader panel (already a popular controller among VJs/visualists)
- Nintendo’s Wiimote
- Track IR 4 Pro is a head-mounted tracker for head movements. Pricing starts at just US$120, so this is absolutely a solution for mortals, and it appears to work really well – with 120 FPS tracking.
- Polhemus Patriot VR Tracker – I’d never seen this before, and it looks utterly brilliant. It’s a six degrees of freedom tracker / 3D digitizer, made up of a small sensor. And it’s only £ 1,985 … oh. Okay, never mind.
For Cinema 4D users, this looks absolutely invaluable. It supports XPresso, CInema 4D’s fantastic modular, visual programming environment, with drag-and-drop support for objects. The free demo version is already pretty usable, with more powerful versions running EUR99-499 (though sadly you need the EUR499 version for full hardware support).
But I think the bigger message is how controllable this makes the 3D environment. This could be fantastic in an open source environment like Blender, or for live control in Blender, visual tools like VDMX, and custom creations in vvvv, Jitter, Processing, and the like. And while it may not be possible to make a system as accurate as the Patriot, looking at what they’re doing I suspect it should be possible to do a “ghetto” version on the cheap. (You know I’m all about that.)