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Optical Mice Tutorial

Optical Mouse Technology

An optical mouse uses a tiny camera to take approximately 1,500 pictures every second. The pictures are taken by bouncing light from a small, red light-emitting diode (LED) off the surface under the mouse, and onto a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor. The CMOS sensor sends each image to a digital signal processor (DSP) for analysis. The DSP, operating at 18 MIPS (million instructions per second), is able to detect the changing patterns in the images between movements. Based on these patterns, the DSP determines how far the mouse has moved and sends the corresponding coordinates to the computer. The computer moves the cursor on the screen based on the coordinates received. Since this happens hundreds of times each second, the cursor appears to move very smoothly.

Optical mice usually have an option for more than the usual 2 buttons on the top of the mouse surface. Additional buttons are, for the most part, programmable by the user.


LED - a display technology that uses a semiconductor diode that emits light when charged. LEDs are used in readouts and on/off lights in a myriad of electronic appliances and as a light source for fiber-optic transmission.

CMOS - a type of integrated circuit for digital processors and memories. CMOS uses PMOS (Positive channel) and NMOS (N-channel) transistors wired together in a way that uses less power than PMOS-only or NMOS-only circuits.

DSP - a specialized microprocessor that performs mathematical operations on a data stream in real time to produce a second (modified) data stream.

Benefits of optical technology

-The lack of moving parts decreases the chance of a failure
-The increase in tracking resolution results in a smoother response
-No requirements for the working surface (no need for a mousepad)
-No trackball = no cleaning hassles

Agilent Optical Mouse Sensor (ADNS-2001)

The ADNS-2001 (choose Mouse Sensor option) is a low-cost reflective optical sensor that provides a non-mechanical tracking engine for implementing a computer mouse. The ADNS-2001 offers a PS/2 or quadrature output mode for interface flexibility and the resolution is specified as 400 cpi at rates of motion up to 16 inches per second. The sensor is mounted in a plastic optical package and designed to be used with the HDNS-2100 (Lens), HDNS-2200 (LED Assembly Clip), and HLMP-ED80 (High Light Output 639 nm LED).

Agilent claims that the ADNS-2001 is 33% faster than the company's previous sensor, the HDNS-2000.


Companies using Optical Mice

Logitech - Optical Mouse
Apple Computer - Apple Pro Mouse
Microsoft - IntelliMouse
Kensington - Mouse-in-a-Box Optical
Chic Technology - Optical Series


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Page updated 1/24/07
Copyright 4th Wave Inc, 2007