Part of the Personal computing glossary:

An optical mouse is an advanced computer pointing device that uses a light-emitting diode ( LED ), an optical sensor, and digital signal processing ( DSP ) in place of the traditional mouse ball and electromechanical transducer. Movement is detected by sensing changes in reflected light, rather than by interpreting the motion of a rolling sphere.

The optical mouse takes microscopic snapshots of the working surface at a rate of more than 1,000 images per second. If the mouse is moved, the image changes. The tiniest irregularities in the surface can produce images good enough for the sensor and DSP to generate usable movement data. The best surfaces reflect but scatter light; an example is a blank sheet of white drawing paper. Some surfaces do not allow the sensor and DSP to function properly because the irregularities are too small to be detected. An example of a poor optical-mousing surface is unfrosted glass.

In practice, an optical mouse does not need cleaning, because it has no moving parts. This all-electronic feature also eliminates mechanical fatigue and failure. If the device is used with the proper surface, sensing is more precise than is possible with any pointing device using the old electromechanical design. This is an asset in graphics applications, and it makes computer operation easier in general.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • smartphone sensor

    - A smartphone sensor is any one of a number of different types of sensing devices installed on a user's phone to gather data for various user purposes, often in conjunction with a mobile app. (WhatIs.com)

  • respawning cookie

    - A respawning cookie is a standard HTTP cookie backed up by data stored in additional files that are used to rebuild the original cookie when the user visits the originating site again. A 2009 study... (WhatIs.com)

  • Flash cookie

    - Flash cookies, also known as local shared objects (LSO), are text files stored on a user’s hard drive when a browsers requests content that's supported by Adobe Flash. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Personal computing

    - Terms related to personal computers, including definitions about computers sold as consumer products and words and phrases about laptops, tablets and smartphones.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question. Find an Answer.Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Ask An IT Question

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Ask Question

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.