There are several very nice 3D mice out there for navigating services like Google Earth or Second Life. 3Dconnexion for example makes a whole line of devices for 3D navigation. Their compact units offer 6-8 degrees of freedom with several customizable options. The company has an SDK available and many of their devices are natively compatible with Linux (or available for access through an XInput driver). So while that is all well and great, lets look at some alternative ways people are navigating 3D spaces.
We are glad to see it didn’t take long for someone to figure out how not to get healthy with a Wii Fit. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence turned one unit into a global surf board. Using the Bluetooth connection of the Wii Fit they developed software to port the user’s motion back into Google Earth. The result, surfing over the alps to 90s techno music. They also briefly demo using the balance board to walk in Second Life.
Why use any input at all when you can use your face? The Human Media Lab has developed software that allows for hands free navigation of Google Earth simply by moving your face. The software is free (although a download link is missing) and currently only available for Windows. They do appear to be using OpenCV as part of this package which is open source.
Lastly from the virtual world of Second Life we have navigating with your mind. This brain-computer interface (BCI) was developed by Japanese professor Jun’ichi Ushiba of Keio University in Japan. The user wears a headpiece that monitors activity in three areas of the motor cortex, where movement signals are processed. A user simply thinks about the direction they want to move and the avatar responds accordingly. Still under development, this device is aiming to recognize more complex movements and gestures in the future.