I have recently acquired a Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse. It has a Microsoft BlueTrack technology for motion detection. Microsoft claims that it should work on practically any surface. Well, when I use mine on a bedsheets, it works poorly. It always skips movements, as if I am lifting the mouse. My $10 Logitech mouse with a standard red laser works perfectly on both the table and the bedsheets.

Is it just my BlueTrack problem, or some of you can confirm that this Microsoft technology really can't do its job as claimed when it comes to cotton surfaces?

  • Your bed-sheet is smooth right, no folds, bumps, etc? – Zoredache Jan 5 '12 at 23:19
  • Yes, and the fact that the red-laser mouse works perfect makes it logical to suspect either the technology or the particular unit. The cotton bedsheet is yellow and red colors though. BlueTrack my be losing the "ground count" at color changes I assume. – Maxim V. Pavlov Jan 5 '12 at 23:25
  • I have an optical device , that was all working wonderfully, ran it on my pants/clothing, and it would do what your describing. I adjusted the led to point different, to change a few angles, still the same thing, single flat surface fine, Soft surface nothing. It gave the same responce as if it was Lifted, but it was the exact opposite. the optics were very tight to the base, and the soft surface was getting to Close. I added in a clear acrylic base to keep the surface from getting to close to the optics, and it works fine . . . still. you could test if that is it easily – Psycogeek Jan 6 '12 at 3:59

The problem is not just the fact that you're tracking on fabric.

From a subtractive color standpoint, yellow reflects red and green light and absorbs blue light. This means that yellow appears black under blue light, which, combined with the fact that you're trying to track on fabric, is likely preventing the mouse from tracking reliably.

Fabric can be difficult for a mouse to track on, partly because it contains repetitive patterning that can confuse the tracking system. While BlueTrack is less likely to fail to track with most fabrics than red LED or laser, a surface that appears too dark to the sensor is likely to cause issues. (Logitech Darkfield Laser Tracking uses dual lasers to detect minute surface irregularities that cannot be detected by ordinary tracking technologies and is immune to this issue.)

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some of you can confirm that this Microsoft technology really can't do its job as claimed when it comes to cotton surfaces?

In my recent experience, based only on ordinary use rather than any exhaustive A/B comparison on numerous kinds of surfaces, BlueTrack mice from Microsoft (e.g. Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500) do not track any better than Logitech mice that work with invisible infrared light (e.g. m317, m325). I just tried a 317 and 325 on various plain cotton, including a bed sheet; they are fine.

BlueTrack mice have terrible battery life from powering that bright blue LED. You can extend that life by turning them off, but it doesn't help that much (it reduces the problem from "really bad" to "bad"), and the switch is too flimsy to last much more than a year of regular use. Before you know it, you will be fiddling with the switch to get the mouse to power up. At which point, ironically, you will be relying on that blue illumination as an indicator whether the power switch is making contact.

Given that mice can be designed to perform excellently with infrared illumination not visible to the human eye, using blue LEDs is a perfect example of a "solution in search of a problem".

Because of the battery life issue, it's moot whether or not these mice track well. Ideally, they should be left to track the interior surface of their unopened factory packaging.

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