Maide Turns Your iPad Into A 3D Controller

The best demos are the ones that extend your sense of what’s possible a little, and Maide‘s did just that. I usually think of iPads as display devices that also support input; but Maide Control uses the tablet almost exclusively for input, which vastly expands the potential richness and repertoire of the interface. They’ve targeted 3D design and modelling as their initial market, aiming to replace dedicated 3D mice from companies like 3DConnexion, but I can see variants being used for things like strategy games and media editing too.

It’s a simple notion: the app connects your iPad (wirelessly) to a big monitor used for 3D design, and then you use multi-touch gestures to zoom, pan, and rotate around that design, and to sketch, add, edit, and erase. It’s pretty easy to use, too — even I, who failed first-year drafting as an engineering student, found it slick and semi-intuitive. You can hook up multiple iPads to the same design to collaborate, and I expect they’ll eventually let users add and customize a personal palette of input/editing options.

Here’s their official launch video:

and a more informal demo:

My one concern is the ergonomics: I wonder if using the iPad’s multi-touch interface all day every day would be harder on the hands and fingers than a 3D mouse. Oleg Kostour, their CEO and co-founder, says that’s “an area we’re paying a lot of attention to,” and they’re consulting with multi-touch interface experts for future iterations.

Their team also includes Jamie Murai, whose notorious “You Win, RIM!” open letter to Research In Motion went viral in the software world earlier this year. (In possibly-not-entirely-unrelated news, RIM’s head of developer relations left the company two weeks ago.) They were born at the University of Waterloo’s Velocity incubator and are currently resident at Toronto’s Extreme University, with seed funding from both. (Disclaimer/disclosure; I did some part-time contract work for Xtreme Labs, an affiliated company, for a few months last year.)

Maide currently works with SketchUp and Rhino on Windows, they expect to add Mac and AutoCAD support in the near future, and their iPad app launched today.