Smarter Mice

Written by Jason Cundall

June 2, 2005 | 14:15

Tags: #mice

Optical mice have been with us for some time now, but they still have difficulty tracking movement on highly polished surfaces. This is set to change with the incorporation of laser based sensors developed by Agilent into our beloved rodents:

Agilent Technologies is equipping mice with laser sensors, the better to see on smooth surfaces such as highly polished wood or frosted glass.

The sensors are now available to all manufacturers of optical pointing devices, after an exclusive deal between Agilent and Logitech expired this month. That availability could mean cheaper, more-sensitive optical mice for all.

The first computer mice calculated hand movements by measuring the rotation of a rubber ball trapped between rollers inside the mouse as it slid across a desk. Unfortunately, their moving parts could break or become clogged with dirt. Optical mice do away with these moving parts: instead, an LED (light-emitting diode) illuminates the tracking surface and a miniature digital camera tracks the mouse's movement relative to imperfections in the surface. The system has one obvious limitation: It won't work on surfaces that are too smooth or perfect, since they don't give the camera any reference points.

By using coherent laser light instead of the more diffuse illumination of an LED, Agilent's new sensors can detect surface imperfections that are much smaller or fainter than those visible to mice with LEDs, so they can work on many more kinds of materials.

More from PCworld here, and discussion of a laser quipped rodent nature can be found here.
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