09 December 2009

How does an Optical Mouse work?

Optical mice are the de facto standard for mice to communicate between the end user and the computer. The optical mouse is a great improvement over the mechanical mouse that was created in the early 1970's.

The Optical mouse was introduced in 1999 by Agilent Technologies; the technology uses a tiny camera that takes thousands of pictures per second to determine position and speed.

The optical mouse uses a very small light emitting diode more commonly referred to as an LED which is red in color. This LED bounces light off of a mouse pad or desk surface onto a CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor).
Optical Mouse Process

First the LED produces a red light that is emitted onto a surface. The light is reflected off the surface back to the CMOS sensor. The CMOS sensor sends each image that is reflected back to a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) for analysis.

Using the thousands of images that the CMOS sends to the DSP for analysis, the DSP is able to detect both patterns and images and can determine if the mouse has moved, at what distance it has moved and at what speed. It is able to determine coordinates which are then sent to the computer that the mouse is hooked up to.

At this point the coordinates have been received by the computer and will show the movement of the mouse, usually by its cursor on the computer screen. Your computer is updated with mouse coordinates more than hundreds of times per second, because movement is so fast, the appearance of the mouse cursor on your computer screen is very smooth.
Benefits of Optical Mice

There are many benefits to using optical mice over its predecessor the track ball or commonly called manual mouse. First of all there are no moving parts. Since the optical mouse uses and LED instead of a tiny rubber ball, there is no way for the LED to stick or get dirty. This leads to high reliability. Many people complain that their manual mice need constant maintenance or repair. Optical mice usually work well for years without a malfunction.

Because the technology is more advanced and uses an LED and CMOS instead of a rubber ball to measure tracking, you will get much better response and performance. Usually, the better the tracking, the smoother the total experience.

Another great reason that the Optical mouse has become the most popular mouse technology is that you can use an optical mouse on lots of different surfaces. Manual mice need a mouse pad made out of a special material to function optimally, optical mice do well on almost any kind of desk top or materials.

Optical mice are also very inexpensive. Most optical mice are less than $30 and some can be purchased for less than $15.
Laser Based Optical Mice

A new technology has recently emerged piggy backing off of the LED optical mouse. The laser based optical mouse works similar to the LED based optical mouse. It uses a laser instead of a LED. The benefit is that because it uses a laser beam, the mouse can track much better, giving the user ultimately better response times, tracking and the ability to be used on even more surfaces.

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