Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles (jazzy music) Greetings and welcome to LGR Oddware where we're taking a look at hardware and software that is odd, forgotten, and obsolete. And today's thing is the Scacetec IMC SpaceOrb 360 game controller, joystick, game pad, mouse alternative thing. (chuckles) It's got a big rubber ball on top, and some buttons, and it's supposed to make your life way easier when it comes to playing 3D games, especially those with six degrees of freedom. Yeah, let's check it out. So this is the Spacetec SpaceOrb 360 "Real Life 3D" game controller, whatever that means. It cost $99 when it first launched in late 1996, and is an alternative input device for 3D PC games. Now there's a new way to move in 3D! Max out your 3D games with killer scores. Perform any move imaginable. (laughs derisively) I mean, I can imagine quite a lot, so That is quite the claim indeed. This whole box is filled with late 90's marketing nonsense. I can't help but love its inflated claims. As real as your own life, maybe more. The heck does that even mean? "What is real?" Apparently it means that this chunky looking controller is as intuitive as balls, literally! It has a ball on top that you twist and fondle in order to control the latest 3D games circa 1996. Games like Descent, Quake, MechWarrior 2, and Duke Nukem 3D, or any DOS or Windows 95 game according to the back of the package here. Something we'll have to put to the test. I've always been quite curious about this thing because while it resembles an analog game controller mixed with a track ball, it connects via the serial port and is entirely digital. So yeah, it doesn't work like a traditional game pad or a track ball. Instead of a rolling sphere or an analog control stick, you have a rubber ball mounted on a control arm filled with multiple input sensors inside to provide 10 bits of precision using Spacetec's patented force and torque converter. This was conceived by John Hilton, a mechanical engineer and graduate of the University of Sydney, Australia. He originally called it the Screwball when applying for a preliminary patent in 1985, but it was named the Space Ball by the time it hit the market in August 1988. Now, these first iterations of the device in the late 80s and early 90s weren't meant for gaming though, but were instead geared towards professionals in need of 3D input device with six degrees of freedom. In the early 90s, the company took on the name Spacetec IMC headquartered just north of Boston, Massachusetts, and made a bunch of 3D input devices that were then licensed to and manufactured by companies like HP, Silicon Graphics, IBM, and Logitech. For example, the PS1 version of the SpaceOrb 360 was produced by ASCII Corporation and sold as the ASCII Sphere 360. But games were never Spacetec's bread and butter. That was computer-aided design and manufacturing where Space Ball devices were licensed to companies for design work. As a result, their devices ended up being used in countless projects, big and small, on this planet and beyond. NASA famously used Spacetec technology in controlling the Sojourner Rover as part of the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997. So you'd think that the late 90s would have been a great time for Spacetec, right? Eh, not so much. Despite an optimistic outlook in their press releases, Spacetec suffered a $3.7 million fiscal loss in 1997, followed by a $3.3 million loss in 1998. Considering the entire yearly company revenue was just $8.9 million, that was pretty substantial. Heavy layoffs hit Spacetec on the 19th of October 1998, eliminating 20% of their 66 person staff. And this was followed up by an acquisition by Labtec just a few days later. And of course, Labtec did much better with Logitech snapping them up for $125 million in January of 2002 and proceeding to roll up the Space Ball products into their 3DConnexion brand. So yeah, considering the fact that everyone from McDonnell Douglas to General Motors to freaking NASA used Space Ball devices, there has to be something to this SpaceOrb 360, right? Well, let's get it unboxed and find out. I was pretty lucky to find this new on ebay, 'cause these things developed quite a cult following over the years and can be darned tricky to find, especially new old stock like this. First up is the controller itself, which feels... okay. Its build quality doesn't exactly instill much confidence consisting of six squishy plastic buttons housed in an even more plasticy shell that brings to mind the crappiest Mad Catz controllers. The rubber Space Ball itself feels quite nice, though, with a sturdy design and some quality rubber that's comfortable to grip onto. And on the end, you hit a nine pin serial connection with a 25 pin adaptor included just in case you need an adaptor for adapting adaptations. Then there's the bag of goodies consisting of a CD-ROM containing the controller drivers and SpaceWare Real Life 3D software, ooh. There's also a registration card to let Spacetec know that you've bought one of their things and what input devices you're replacing with the SpaceOrb. And finally, there's the 21 page instruction manual introducing you to Orbis, the GameMaster, the GameHead. Aw, geez. (chuckles) Ah, the late 90s never change. So the whole idea here is to treat the Space Ball like an angry emoji or something. Basically if you imagined the ball represents your head in 3D space, then moving around in 3D space should be as intuitive as moving your head. All right, that's enough gimmicky documentation. Let's get this thing plugged in and set up with an appropriate PC running DOS and Windows and try out a handful of games SpaceTec recommends and one or two that they don't. Okay, so I've got the SpaceOrb 360 plugged in, software installed on the recently repaired Lazy Green Giant that just had a power supply go out. Very easy to fix. And yeah, at this point, we have an assortment of icons that are provided for us. We've got a (chuckles) a chicken demo, a bunch of guides and help things, interactive trainer, customizer, monitor, and the SpaceOrb promo. Let's just start with this, 'cause this is amusing. (rhythmic mechanical music) - [Promo Dude] Are you still fighting futuristic aliens with these prehistoric controllers? Well if you are, get ready for the smoothest, most realistic gaming experience on the planet, the SpaceOrb 360. It will take you to a new level of interaction. As 3D as your own life, maybe more! -Okay, they were trying very, very hard to make this thing cool, and really, it's kind of cool enough as it is. I don't know why they were trying so hard. But yeah, let's just go for the interactive trainer because this is actually pretty darn useful, and here's where we get to converse or at least interact with Orbis. (retro video gaming music) And there's something about the atmosphere of this program that I really enjoy. You'll see. - [Orbis] Welcome to the Orbitron Citadel. It's here that I'm going to train you. There are two ways to use your SpaceOrb 360. In the vertical position, with the nose pointing at the screen or in the horizontal. I'm going to teach you in vertical. It's easy. First, I'm going to teach you how to move forward. Place your thumb on the triple arches, the back of the power sensor.