Immersion MicroScribe 3D input device coming to OS X

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Immersion Corp. announced on Monday the pending release of a Software Development Kit (SDK) designed to bring Mac OS X support for its MicroScribe G2, a peripheral designed for 3D graphics modeling and CAD/CAM engineering. To find out more about what this means for Mac users, MacCentral spoke with representatives of Immersion Corp.

The MicroScribe G2 is an input device that enables users to convert 3D objects into digital 3D models. It's used by engineers, animators, medical technicians and others. Users wield the articulated arm to input coordinates with up to five degrees of motion, providing precise input coordinates for the software they're using.

The MicroScribe G2 comes in different sizes and with different levels of precision, according to Rachel Miura, product manager, 3D and Professional Products at Immersion. "There are a series of optical encoders in each joint," she explained.

Those encoders relay position, orientation and 3D data back to a microchip in the device's base that is sent along to the host software.

Immersion released the MicroScribe SDK for Mac OS X in recognition of the Mac's strength in the creative market, according to Greg Belaus, senior director, 3D and Professional Products, Immersion. "We've seen a lot of pull from both application developers and customers for this sort of product in the Mac market," said Belaus.

Applications for the MicroScribe run far and wide. 3D graphics artists and animators often use the MicroScribe to input coordinates from 3D clay models and mockups, for example. It's been used in the production of feature films. What's more, archaeologists have used it to plot the position of delicate artifacts. It also has applications in medical imaging.

Along with Immersion's announcement comes word that four companies will be supporting the MicroScribe G2 SDK on the Mac. Eovia Corp. will sport MicroScribe support in its Amapi Pro 7 software; Ashlar-Vellum Inc.'s Designer Elements line will get MicroScribe support too, including Argon, Cobalt, Graphite, Neon and Xenon; EVOQE s.r.l.'s solidThinking will also support the device; auto.des.sys Inc.'s form.Z will gain MicroScribe input support; and PiXELS Digital Inc.'s PiXELS 3D will also support the peripheral.

Miura said that MicroScribe-compatible updates for these applications will be released this summer and autumn -- Immersion anticipates seeing the first Mac-compatible MicroScribe products to be displayed at the SIGGRAPH 2003 trade show in San Diego next month.

One notable exception from the list is Alias|Wavefront's popular 3D modeling and animation software Maya. While Immersion normally leaves MicroScribe support up to the individual application developer, the company made its own solution for Maya called MicroScribe Connections. Immersion developed its own US$495 solution for Maya called MicroScribe Connections, but hasn't yet announced plans to bring that software to Mac OS X. Immersion hopes a third-party developer will step up to the plate with Mac OS X Maya support for the MicroScribe, according to Belaus.

Although the MicroScribe has been around for about seven years, the Mac OS X SDK supports the MicroScribe G2 line, specifically, according to Belaus. The G2 line provides native support for USB, so it's plug-and-play compatible when used on a Mac equipped with MicroScribe-compatible software.

This is Immersion's second major announcement for Mac users. Earlier this year, Immersion announced that it had worked with Apple to support force feedback technology in Mac OS X v10.2.3 and higher. Third-party game controllers equipped with Immersion's popular TouchSense technology are now supported in a small but growing list of games developed for Mac OS X.

The MicroScribe SDK itself isn't an end-user application; it was created to provide software developers themselves with a way of translating the raw data from the MicroScribe G2 series devices into information their own applications can understand. With the SDK in hand, developers can create their own digitizing routines and custom applications, according to Immersion. The SDK requires Mac OS X 10.2.1 or higher.

The MicroScribe SDK will be available for free download starting Wednesday, July 2nd, from Immersion's Web site.

The MicroScribe G2 is available in different sizes and accuracies and prices ranging from $3,495 to $5,495. More details about the MicroScribe are available from the Immersion Web site.

This story, "Immersion MicroScribe 3D input device coming to OS X" was originally published by PCWorld.

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