The predecessor of the spacemouse was the DLR controller ball. Spacemouse has its origins in the late seventies when the DLR (German Aerospace Research Establishment) started research in its robotics and system dynamics division on devices with six degrees of freedom (6 dof) for controlling robot grippers in Cartesian space. The basic principle behind its construction is mechatronics engineering and the multisensory concept. The spacemouse has different modes of operation in which it can also be used as a two-dimensional mouse. each encoder disk has two infrared LEDs and two infrared sensors, one on each side of the disk (so there are four LED/sensor pairs inside a mouse). This arrangement allows the processor to detect the disk's direction of rotation. There is a piece of plastic with a small, precisely located hole that sits between the encoder disk and each infrared sensor.
Space mouse opens a new age for man-machine communication. This device is based on the technology used to control the first robot in space and has been adapted for a wide range of tasks including mechanical design, real time video animation and visual simulation. It has become a standard input device for interactive motion control of three-dimensional graphic objects in up to six degrees of freedom. Space mouse works with standard serial mouse interface without an additional power supply. The ergonomic design allows the human hand to rest on it without fatigue. Thus flying an object in six degrees of freedom is done without any strain.
The graphics simulation and manipulation of 3D volume objects and virtual worlds and their combination e.g. with real information as contained in TV images (multi-media) is not only meaningful for space technology, but will strongly change the whole world of manufacturing and construction technology, including other areas like urban development, chemistry, biology, and entertainment. For all these applications we believe there is no other man- machine interface technology comparable to Magellan in its simplicity and yet high precision. It is used for 3D manipulations in 6 dof, but at the same time may function as a conventional 2D mouse.