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What is a Laser Mouse?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A laser mouse is a type of computer pointing device that uses a laser beam rather than a ball to track the movement of the user's hand. This type of mice are becoming increasingly common because they are perceived to have better tracking ability. In addition, they are not as subject to gumming up and subsequent distortion of the signal as conventional ball mice. The lack of moving parts also makes them far less subject to damage.

Before the laser mouse, the optical mouse became widespread in the late 1990s, shipping as an extra feature on many computer systems. Users immediately began to sing the praises of this device, saying that it made work much easier than a traditional mouse, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a ball mouse as a result. The optical mouse is also available in a wireless format, making it an extremely versatile and flexible tool for users who like to have free range of their cordless desks.

With the introduction of a graphical user interface in the late 1980s, computer companies saw the need for some sort of device that could be used to interact with the computer, which had transcended the boundaries of the traditional text-based user interface. The mouse was introduced and became a quick success — very few computer users work without mice now, although it is technically possible to use keyboard shortcuts to bypass the mouse. Using a mouse is often quicker and easier, however. As anyone who has used traditional roller mice knows, the roller ball tends to get gummed up with material from the workspace it is employed in and can ultimately start to malfunction until taken apart and cleaned. Optical and laser mice were an excellent introduction to the computing world, because they are not as subject to interference.

An optical mouse usually uses a light emitting diode (LED), which is frequently red, although mice in other colors such as blue are not uncommon. A laser mouse, on the other hand, which is a type of optical mouse, uses a laser beam that is invisible, or nearly invisible, to the human eye. Logitech brought the first one to the market in 2004. The beam emitted by the mouse moves with the user's hand, triggering an optical sensor system. It works in tandem with a system that tracks how far the mouse has moved by bouncing hundreds of images every second, constantly updating the position of the mouse and the subsequent position of the cursor on the screen.

In general, the laser mouse moves very smoothly and accurately, although if the system memory is bogged down, it will cause the cursor to lag, along with everything else. In addition, the mouse can reflect from almost any surface, meaning that a mouse pad is not necessary. Users have been known to employ anything from desk tops to pant legs as a reflective surface for their mouse, making it a great go-anywhere tool.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon273985 — On Jun 09, 2012

The light is uncomfortable so it might damage my eyes.

By anon135780 — On Dec 20, 2010

i feel a slight numbness in index finger due to laser mouse excessive use. i use the index finger with my computer. dr arshad

By anon56702 — On Dec 16, 2009

i'm so confused.

By anon39020 — On Jul 29, 2009

"With the introduction of a graphical user interface in the late 1980s, computer companies saw the need..."

GUI's and mice were already common by the late 1980s. According to Wikipedia, the mouse was invented in 1963, and Bill English invented the ball mouse in 1972 at Xerox PARC.

By anon38822 — On Jul 28, 2009

Oh dear, stop worrying! I work with photocopiers. the laser those use can blind you in seconds if they shine into your retina! The mice are fine. I just stared into mine for a prolonged period. :)

By anon32684 — On May 25, 2009

*Laser mouses are lasers, quit saying they aren't.* there is a difference between a laser and optical mouse and there is a difference between a laser emitting diode and a light emitting diode. laser mouses are class1 laser devices which cannot harm you even if you stare at it all day(A class 1 laser is safe under all conditions of normal use. This means the maximum permissible exposure (MPE)*cannot* be exceeded. This class includes high-power lasers within an enclosure that prevents exposure to the radiation and that cannot be opened without shutting down the laser. For example, a continuous laser at 600 nm can emit up to 0.39 mW, but for shorter wavelengths, the maximum emission is lower because of the potential of those wavelengths to generate photochemical damage. The maximum emission is also related to the pulse duration in the case of pulsed lasers and the degree of spatial coherence).

By anon25587 — On Jan 31, 2009

Warning, if you see some bright light source at the bottom of your mouse - it is usual LED mouse. And its safe, but anyway better not to look at such bright source for a long time :)

Laser mice use infrared wave range, so you will not see any light because the most of infrared light would be absorbed by your cornea and lens. But it does not mean that laser mice are safe like LED.

By anon25583 — On Jan 31, 2009

The laser mouse uses an infrared laser diode instead of an LED to illuminate the surface beneath their sensor.

Laser diode mice are new, relative to old LED mice.

By anon25402 — On Jan 28, 2009

poster: '"Laser" mice do not actually use a laser. It is a red Light Emitting Diode (LED) And will not harm your eyes.'

Wrong. They are lasers. They're classed as laser products and labeled as such (which you will not see on any normal LED optical mice). Do your homework before posting please.

"How dangerous is the laser mouse? I feel like my eye felt "tired" and hurt after a colleague tipped his mouse at me for several seconds."

You're fine. Relax.

By anon22655 — On Dec 08, 2008

Yeah, umm why would you put the mouse up to your face anyway? if you wanted to fix it you'd unplug it.

By anon21928 — On Nov 24, 2008

Laser's are diodes. the one that got shined on me looked just like a laser pointer. think it's more likely a floater like thing in my eye than getting shined. Always worried about laser mice.

By anon19329 — On Oct 10, 2008

actually laser mice use the same type as your tv remote, if you have the mouse opened up and look at the "led" you will see a small red dot which is the same what you have from your tv remote

By anon18417 — On Sep 22, 2008

Someone in my comp accel. class did the same to me, anon1897; it's pathetic how some people take such important things in life jokingly.. now i know i'm not the only one worrying about this, and i'm going to tell me teacher about it immediately

By 6pack — On Jun 07, 2008

Anon12000 - I don't know much about laser strength classifications, but I have read specs to certain brands of laser mice and they say that the mouse is safe, even though they are Class 1 laser products. Also, I think manufacturers build in safety mechanisms to protect against potential harm. That said, it'd probably make sense not to put the mouse up to your eye! :)

And just another interesting tidbit... Laser mice are 20 times more sensitive to surfaces than LED optical mice, meaning they can be used on more surface types than optical mice.

By 6pack — On Jun 07, 2008

Anon9841 - I think laser mice *do* use a laser. Hence the name. Optical mice use LEDs; Laser mice use lasers. Look up some of the laser mice on the market, like Logitech and Microsoft, and you'll see in the specs that it includes a laser, not a LED.

By anon12000 — On Apr 28, 2008

is the invisible laser light shining out of my mouse dangerous to the eyes? The mouse is labeled as a Class 1 laser product with a power rating of 800mA.

By anon10885 — On Apr 04, 2008

Are laser mice o.k. for children to use? If they don't actually use a laser then why does my mouse have a warning about it being a class 1 laser product? The emitted light is also invisible, although it can be seen using a digital camera or phone camera.

By anon9841 — On Mar 14, 2008

"Laser" mice do not actually use a laser. It is a red Light Emitting Diode (LED) And will not harm your eyes.

By anon1897 — On Jun 19, 2007

How dangerous is the laser mouse? I feel like my eye felt "tired" and hurt after a colleague tipped his mouse at me for several seconds. Are the lasers stronger than laser pointers? Thank you.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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