OPTOELECTRONICS INDUSTRY: OIDA forum showcases technology and market opportunities

Global opportunities and issues were the theme of Perspectives on the Optoelectronics Industry, a two-day forum hosted by the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association.

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Global opportunities and issues were the theme of Perspectives on the Optoelectronics Industry, a two-day forum hosted by the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA; Washington, D.C.) Sept. 11-12 in San Jose, CA. The event was the first of three OIDA forums sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA; Arlington, VA) and designed to address key issues in the optoelectronics industry, with a focus on industry advances, challenges, and growth opportunities.

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The MX Air mouse combines MEMS sensors, digital-signal-processing technology, and radio-frequency wireless technology to allow a user to hold the mouse in any orientation and point in any direction to control the cursor and other functions. It includes a near-IR diode-laser light engine and sensor system to enable the mouse to operate on nearly any desktop surface. (Courtesy of Logitech)
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The forum focused on current business conditions in seven key industry arenas: nontelecom applications of high-power semiconductor lasers; consumer optoelectronics; communications and service providers; electronic, photonic, and life-science measurements; high-power lasers and applications; defense/homeland security; and transportation. According to OIDA, these industries have undergone significant changes in the last five years, with increased use of outsourcing, changes in business models, differing R&D pipelines, and new capital constraints.

The first day’s keynote, presented by Henry Kressel of Warburg Pincus (New York, NY) focused on the global migration of technology and what this means for optoelectronic companies in terms of R&D, manufacturing, and intellectual property (IP) protection. He claimed that the growing cost of doing business outside the United States, particularly with regard to finding and retaining a skilled workforce in certain countries, is impacting the migration of manufacturing to offshore locations. This should be good news for U.S. high-tech companies, he added, because it means R&D and manufacturing processes may once again reside on the same continent, which in turn will enhance the ability to develop and protect IP.

“Cross-fertilization in technology is a key driver behind innovation,” Kressel said. “And the United States continues to be a great place for innovation because continuous innovation creates continuous economic value. It trumps cost cutting as a long-term strategy.”

Air mouse

Several sessions focused on innovations in optoelectronic technologies that are changing the face of many consumer, security, transportation, communications, and defense products. Erik Charlton, director of product marketing for performance and gaming mice at Logitech (Fremont, CA), talked about the evolution of computer mice from ball-based to optical (LED and laser) to the current state of the art: a wireless optical mouse that can function on almost any surface or even in the air (see figure).

All light-based mice, regardless of whether the light source is a laser or LED, use sensors to “read” the light beam as it is reflected back into the mouse from the tracking surface. Each second, the optical sensor inside Logitech’s mouse takes more than 6000 snapshot “fingerprints,” converts the information to digital format, and uses the changes in the fingerprints to calculate the mouse’s precise location, speed, and direction of movement. The driver software then communicates with the computer’s operating system to move the cursor on the screen.

Laser-based mice (which typically incorporate an 850-nm-emitting diode laser) are able to reveal structures on a surface that an LED simply cannot express. The coherent nature of laser light creates patterns of high contrast when it is reflected. The pattern appearing on the sensor reveals details on any surface, even glossy surfaces that would look totally uniform when exposed to the LED incoherent illumination. Thus laser-based mice are able to track on virtually any surface, except glass or mirrored surfaces.

Logitech’s new MX Air mouse combines the advantages of laser-based desktop mouse capabilities with, in essence, a wireless remote control. The rechargeable mouse uses 2.4 GHz digital cordless technology with a range of up to 30 ft for use with a notebook or desktop PC. The main feature that allows the MX Air to work in mid-air is the so-called Freespace motion-control technology licensed by Logitech from Hillcrest Labs (Rockville, MD). Rather than mechanical gyroscopes like those in a Wii remote, the MX Air mouse uses a combination of MEMS sensors, digital-signal-processing technology, and radio-frequency wireless technology. Together, these features allow a user to hold the mouse in any orientation and point in any direction to control the cursor and other functions. When the device is moved, the MEMS inertial sensors provide raw motion estimates. These data elements are calibrated, converted, and interpreted into estimates of the actual motion of the device. Physiological hand tremor is subtracted from the actual motion to determine the intended motion. The system then maps the intended motion to the on-screen cursor.

“The MX Air mouse offers people a radically new way to interact with PC-based entertainment,” Charlton said. “With more and more people using their PCs to watch videos and listen to music, we wanted to create a product that would allow people to adjust the volume, change a song, or browse online videos without having to return to the desk.”

Kathy Kincade

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