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Optimus OLED Keyboard Pre-Orders Start Dec. 12 289

Posted by kdawson
from the every-key-a-function-key dept.
Jupix writes, "After almost a year and a half of public development, the Optimus OLED keyboard is nearing completion. According to the project blog, pre-orders for the Optimus-103 will start on December 12. The price is unspecified at this time, but Art Lebedev has said the keyboard will cost 'less than a good mobile phone' (probably about $400). Don't expect to see those 10 programmable function keys on the left on this first version, though, as they will not make their debut until the Optimus-113, released later."
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Optimus OLED Keyboard Pre-Orders Start Dec. 12

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  • by vistic (556838) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:48PM (#16905998)
    Does anyone know what kind of switches it uses?

    At that price I'd expect buckling spring switches (like the old IBM Model M) or mechanical Alps switches (like the old Apple Extended Keyboard II). Although I think only Unicomp makes buckling spring keyboards anymore.

    I'd be disappointed if keys that look so nice, just have a squishy feel to them like a cheap rubber-dome membrane Dell keyboard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      huh? The squishy feeling is a good thing(tm) Its called a quiet keyboard. I very much dislike the spring keyboards, esp if yo use them for data entry. With quiet keyboards its much easier to press the keys.
      • huh? The squishy feeling is a good thing(tm) Its called a quiet keyboard. I very much dislike the spring keyboards, esp if yo use them for data entry. With quiet keyboards its much easier to press the keys.

        Although ultimately it comes down to personal preference, I think that the 'clicky' buckling-spring keys are actually easier to use and less fatiguing. Because there is immediate tactile and audible feedback when the key-switch is actuated, you don't have to press it as far down. When I use a 'soft touch' keyboard, I find that I hit the keys further and harder, because there's not that feedback; I slam each key all the way down instead of (with practice) only pushing each key down as far as is necessary.

        The noise of the original IBM Model M's is definitely a downside; if you have to work around other people, I can see how it wouldn't win you many friends. In my opinion, the Apple Extended Keyboard II with the Altus switches is the best of both worlds. It's softer both in terms of pressure and sound than the IBM, but it's not as 'mushy' as a soft-touch (silicone dome).
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by ben there... (946946)
          I hate the sound of keyboards, especially in computer labs or busy offices. My perfect keyboard would provide no tactile feedback at all. Just touch-sensitive with some "mushiness" or "give", so that your fingers aren't pressing against a hard surface. Include a tiny speaker (or use the computer's sound card) for key press sounds for those that want them. You could even use headphones for it if you ran through the sound card. Silent to all around you. The best feedback is the letters appearing on the screen
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kefler (938387)
            "The best feedback is the letters appearing on the screen anyway."

            You must type rather slowly...
            • "The best feedback is the letters appearing on the screen anyway."

              You must type rather slowly...

              At least 35wpm. Haven't checked recently. Computer has no problem keeping up with that though.
              • by iluvcapra (782887)

                A java applet for testing the speed of a serial process. Something deeply ironic about that.

                I'm at 56 WPM on a clickety Apple II style keyboard, and 48 on my Powerbook G4 keyboard, though of course it can't be too scientific a conclusion.

          • Studies on the project-o-keyboards that use infrared to detect keystrokes say otherwise. The feedback you get from tapping whatever surface you're projecting onto is less than that of a traditional keyboard, and the figure I remember is 20wpm slower. Personally, I hate typing on laptop keyboards because the keys, apart from being to near to one another also have very little travel. I'm not sure whether this is the same phenomenon, or my simply being accustomed to typing on a keyboard with more give in the k
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! (33014)
          Well, if you want to keep in the spirit of this keyboard's design, the audible "click" feedback should be programmable -- on a key by key basis.
    • E-Paper keys? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gaspar ilom (859751)
      OLEDs are cool and all, and support color...

      But if they used e-paper for each key, couldn't this be used in laptops and other low-power devices?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by bdsd76 (857888)
        According to art. lebedev, they chose not to go with e-paper due to its being too slow...

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:48PM (#16906466)
      With the old IBM keyboards. There seems to be this kind of reverence for them on /. and I don't understand why. I used to have one (had an IBM desktop). It was noisy and hard to press the keys. I much prefer my current MS keyboard which has easy, quiet keys. The only potential argument I've heard for the old keyboards is durability. Ok, maybe so, but what kind of stress do you subject them to that makes them break? I have, thus far, never managed to wear out a key on a keyboard. I use the hell out of my computer too, it's pretty much all I do with my time.

      So what's the deal with the old IBM keyboards? Is it just some kind of geek-tough guy thing? "Back in my day our keyboards could cause hearing damage and by god we liked it!" I just don't understand what the problem with modern, soft, quiet keyboards is. They don't seem to have problems with breaking even under heavy use, so what's up?
      • I think the preference comes from two things, durability and a preference for a loud click, to some people it just seems more substantial. Ego may play a part as well. Keyboard durability is somewhat of a concern though, I've broken probably half a dozen keyboards in the past 5 or so years, and of all varieties, not just soft-touch membrane keyboards, but a couple of regular switch keyboards (one IBM style, one not).

      • by blincoln (592401)
        I don't like modern membrane keyboards because if you spill a drink on them, they're basically done for. You can take them apart and clean the plastic sheets all you want, but it's next to impossible to make all the keys work ever again.

        That being said, I use them at home and at work because I haven't seen an MS Natural-style keyboard with real switches, let alone one at an affordable price.
      • by vistic (556838) *
        I personally like the click of my 104-key Unicomp buckling spring keyboard... it's not too loud at all I think.

        Aside from the feel of the keys, I also like the shape of the keys themselves and the layout... it's just the sort of standard my fingers have gotten used to over the years. Some membrane keyboards are ok, but others have a really mushy feel to them that I hate.

        Also, IBM did make a quiet buckling-spring keyboard as well. I think it was the same buckling spring mechanism but with sort of a vaselin
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by espilce (105654)
        I think it's something akin to the preference of vinyl recordings over CD or other digital methods. Purely a personal aesthetic. I love my keyboard taken from an IBM PS/2 gas station server. I've had it for 10 years now and the thing was made in 1986. I dread the day when I may have to purchase another desktop keyboard. For me, even Apple or Happy Hacking keyboards don't come close to the nice springy click of the IBM PS/2 board.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dubbreak (623656)
        As a pianist I enjoy the feel of the buckling spring keyboards, although I haven't owned one in years. I might compare it to the difference between a classic piano and a electronic substitue: there's an intricate tactical sensation when playing on an acoustic piano due to the mechanics. But that may be going to far on drawing a parallel. I also find that I can't type as fast with some of the squishy quiet keyboards. There is an exact point at which the key is pressed that I can recognize with the old clicky
  • Forced tilt? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blitzrage (185758) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:56PM (#16906036) Homepage
    Looks like the keyboard is force on an angle. Normally you're able to adjust the height of the keyboard. I generally like my keyboard as flat as possible and my desk/chair set to the right height so my wrists are in a comfortable and flat position instead of being tilted up. Too bad, looks like the keyboard has promise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nerftoe (74385)
      Just shim up the front of the keyboard. Problem solved. ;)
    • I agree. That said, I love my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard with the 9 degree reverse tilt.

      Also, why does every fucking keyboard manufacturer in the world feel that they have to screw around with the enter key at every opportunity? You'd think they'd learn that people want a rectangular enter key, with a rectangular backslash/pipe key above it and a rectangular, full-width backspace key above that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sc00ch (254070)
        Speak for yourself, over here in the UK we have the vertical 2 row (upside down L) enter key. I think there should be various layouts to match the different standards around the world.
      • by Tim Browse (9263)

        You'd think they'd learn that people want a rectangular enter key, with a rectangular backslash/pipe key above it and a rectangular, full-width backspace key above that.

        No thanks. Big enter key please, with a backspace above that, like just about every other computer keyboard I've used in my life.

  • by RetroGeek (206522) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:56PM (#16906042) Homepage
    Overall changes are one thing (ala Quake), but what I want is to have the display change when I press the CTRL or ALT key.

    So that CTRL changes the C key display to COPY and so on. Including the function and specialty keys (arrows, PrtSc).

    And an editor that allows me to customize what the keys show, so when I am programming I can set up the display to match my key mapping preferences. With smart focus management to whatever program is in the foreground.
    • by hanssprudel (323035) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:07PM (#16906126)
      And an editor that allows me to customize what the keys show, so when I am programming I can set up the display to match my key mapping preferences. With smart focus management to whatever program is in the foreground.

      You shouldn't need an editor for this. Rather they should release a good API, so that is it is easy for every program to tell the keyboard what to display when that program is in focus. Since your IDE already knows your keymaps, you shouldn't have to tell the keyboard again (imagine what a mess).

      This is beautiful technology, but as with so many other things, the difficulty will be in getting programs to support it.
      • Wouldn't it be easier for the keyboard to come with software to recognize which app is focused, along with community-designed key maps for common programs? And a standard XML key map file that could optionally be generated by apps when you change their key mappings?
        • by Tim C (15259)
          Yes it would be, but then you run the risk of the keyboard and the app getting out of sync. Not a huge bother, of course, but inelegant; I much prefer things to just work, even if it means that getting them to that state takes more effort.
      • They could do both potentially, allowing you to edit what's displayed when a given program has focus, particularly if it doesn't make an attempt to support the keyboard's functionality.

        Then you can make or obtain key mappings for programs that aren't even in development any more, which is pretty desirable on it's own.
    • by rehabdoll (221029)
      The display seems to change with caps. Change with CTRL/ALT would seem natural.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      Which is a great idea for grandma, who doesn't know how to use a computer, but really isn't that much of an advantage to an advanced computer user who never looks at their keyboard anyway. Anybody who users a computer more than 2 hours a day, should probably learn the key shortcuts and make their life easier. People depend way too much on the mouse, which is understandable in a GUI environment, but even then, using the keyboard is much faster. I could see this being an advantage with VS.Net, and it showi
      • by icebike (68054) *
        Which is a great idea for grandma, who doesn't know how to use a computer, but really isn't that much of an advantage to an advanced computer user who never looks at their keyboard anyway. Anybody who users a computer more than 2 hours a day, should probably learn the key shortcuts and make their life easier. People depend way too much on the mouse, which is understandable in a GUI environment, but even then, using the keyboard is much faster.

        You contradict yourself in the scope of two sentences. ;-)

        S
      • by LocoMan (744414)
        I have to agree here. At least that isn't particularly useful for me, since I very rarely look at the keyboard at all to begin with. On most apps I use regularly (photoshop, premiere, final cut pro and others), once I learnt the shortcuts I always either click on the tools with the mouse or hit the shortcut keys without looking at the keyboard. Same for games (specially FPSs). I usually configure the keyboard so that I can click on the most common actions without having to look at it at all (usually using s
    • by Knuckles (8964)
      what I want is to have the display change when I press the CTRL or ALT key.

      It doesn't do this? I thought that's the whole point of this keyboard and the reason why I found it cool. I even had kind of assumed it would include (or at least have planned) a way to make this controllable by the application that has focus, so that, for example, vim or Gimp could display their shortcuts. Not that would be helpful.
    • by chriso11 (254041)
      Actually, I would be happy with an otherwise-normal keyboard that has those special 10 function keys on the side.
    • by Enselic (933809) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:37PM (#16906360) Homepage
      As a hobbyist game programmer, I immediately began to think about what games you could write for the keyboard itself. My general idea is that you could make all the keys act as one big (low-res) screen.

      You could have a Whack-a-Mole type game, where a mole would display on the keys and you'd have to whack him by pressing one of the keys the mole occupies.

      Or you could make a Snake clone where you would maneuver the snake by tapping on the direction the snake would go.

      Or some kind of piano game, á la Guitar Hero.
  • Where do I start queueing?! Let's hope it works with my PS3! /sarcasm Anyone miss the days when things just "went on sale"?
  • Is this the thread where we say what we wish we had in a keyboard?

    I really like the keyboard on my MacBook, I wish I could find one like it for my PC's
    • Oddly enough I like my Microsoft Internet keyboard. The keys don't feel as cheap as other keyboards I have used and when it gets dirty it seems to survive complete submersion in water. Although I admit I have not tried mac keyboards, so I don't know what I am missing.
    • The Happy Hacker 2 Lite keyboard is about the closest thing I've found to a Macbook (well, iBook in my case) keyboard for a PC -- most of the keys are in the right places, though I had to remap Control to Caps Lock on my laptop so I didn't get confused every time I switched between the two machines. The HH2 Lite has a pretty decent feel for a membrane keyboard.
  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:01PM (#16906076)
    I suspect that this won't be used a lot on home computer systems. Where it may be used a lot is in things like automotive dashboards and possibly non-critical systems on aircraft where space is at a premium and touch screens work poorly if you're wearing gloves and/or want some tactile feedback.

    -b.

    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      That is exactly what I was thinking when I just saw their upravlator [artlebedev.com]. That thing, although looking unconventional at first, might be a bigger succes than their oled keyboard, especially as it can have direct applications in industries.
      • by blincoln (592401)
        Yeah, I hadn't seen that until your link, and I would love a device like that, assuming the price was reasonable.
    • by Dracos (107777)

      Any application where the UI is hotkey driven (or has lots of semi-decipherable icons) can benefit from an Optimus.

      Personally, I want one just for Blender [blender.org]. Lots of other graphics apps could benefit from this (Photoshop, even), and certainly there are some video people out there that would like to plug one of these into their Avid systems.

      Sadly, the extra 10 side keys could have been put to good use in a Blender key layout.

  • This is the sort of thing that many users would love to get when the pricepoint is right. Both for easy of use (wouldn't you love a keyboard that could change languages at a single click?) and for increased productivity (that photoshop overlay looked pretty slick).

    $400 is over my budget. When it hits $100 it's mine. :-)
  • Under $400? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kd5ujz (640580)
    After looking at the site, the Optimus mini three (three keys) runs for $160USD. I do not see how they can sell 103 keys for $400, when they are selling 3 for $160. I know that the price will get cheaper for the keyboard (still has only one usb controller), but at the 3 for $160 rate, the keyboard with 103 keys would run ~$5493USD. I seriously doubt it will be cheaper than a nice cell phone.
    • by alienw (585907)
      It's called "NRE". Non-recurring expenses. As in, the parts for the keyboard might only cost $50; the rest is the NRE cost of the plastic molds and other tooling, as well as the manufacturing costs. For many electronic products, the bill of materials cost is less than 10% of the retail price.
    • It's possible that those mini threes were being made by hand on a small scale, perhaps as a means of raising further capital and helping to identify engineering/manufacturing issues. A paid beta test if you will.

      A lot of manufacturing processes get a lot cheaper when automated and scaled into hundreds of thousands of units. While they may not hit $400, I'd bet they can get within a few hundred of that.

      Here's hoping.
  • by slightlyspacey (799665) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:09PM (#16906146)
    I don't know about your credit card, but when I charge something, they require something a bit more concrete than "less than the price of a good cell phone".
    • by jfengel (409917)
      I'm sure we'll have another article Dec 22 with an actual price, and yet another when pre-orders become just plain "orders", and probably a review after that.
  • I like the look, I like the idea... I've waited a long to see these be available... but, around $400???

    At that kind of expense, it better have a 100G drive, about 512M memory, and run Linux. (and for an extra $100 - $200, Windows XP...)

    I know it's new, I know price points start high, I'll wait.

  • by onemorehour (162028) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:13PM (#16906178)
    Read the blog for details. They scrapped the OLED idea in favor of LCD screens to save cost.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      "Optimus-103 DC Adapter
      Optimus keyboard will be shipped with a power adapter. Hundred of LEDs beneath the keys cannot be powered by USB alone."

      IMO, that sucks.
      Now you have another cable to plug in and they've ditched one of the neatest things about it.
  • Does it have drivers for linux?
    No, really
  • You're not supposed to look at the keyboard. It slows down your typing.

    Learn to type on a blank keyboard [daskeyboard.com].

  • Interesting. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Windwraith (932426)
    Since I need to exchange keyboard setups (from Spanish (Spain setup) to English to Japanese and others at times, I can see usefulness in this thing. Looks flashy too, although looks like it's rather expensive.
    I wonder if it works in Linux, too?
  • I can imagine this being nice to have if you're a heavy user of virtual machines. For example, I run OS X. It would be nice to have a standard OS X layout, then switch to a Windows install in Parallels and have the keyboard switch to having a Windows key. Then switch to Ubuntu and see a Gnome-like foot for the menu. Or KDE and have a big K, or...

    You get the idea. Price is somewhat hefty though, especially for something that isn't going to have the side keys. I'll wait until I read reviews about how well
  • Have they spoken with Bloomberg about this? They already remap keys (by ordering custom keyboards in all sorts of funky colors) and it causes no end of confusion among a portion of their users who can't find the delete key any more (it's labeld CONN/DFLT (in big upper case) delete (in lower case) on their keyboard). This seems like the best of both worlds. And Bloomberg has plenty to drop a few hundred more on their systems. They've been shipping wireless keyboard/flat screen sets for at least 5 years a
  • Optimus Prime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Majik Sheff (930627) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:42PM (#16906410) Journal
    Did anyone else notice that the model numbers are primes?
  • I can't wait to use the Optimus keyboard with a Phantom console to play Duke Nukem Forever!
  • Remember, folks it's less than a good mobile phone IN RUSSIA. Even subsidized phones aren't subsidized as heavily there, and most phone plans are pre-paid. And it's probably the owner of Russia's leading design studio who wrote that post. For him "a good mobile phone" could easily be $1000.
  • is anyone else just sick of hearing about this thing? more than a dozen of my friends have sent me links to this keyboard's site as if i'd never heard about it before. it's going to be grossly overpriced*, and only marginally useful. 99.99% of people won't get one. can we talk about something else now?

    * and I spent $100 for my keyboard
  • I wonder if they'll have some kind of sleep mode for the displays to ensure they won't burn out prematurely.

    One of the biggest hurdles I'd heard of for OLEDs was their lifespan, particularly for the blue emitters.

    I'm not sure if they have issues with burn in, but a screensaver would be nice too. Perhaps a slideshow that spans all the keys, or Pac Man running back and forth across rows ;)
    • by Tim C (15259)
      They've ditched OLEDs in favour of LEDs, apparently for cost reasons.

      I do like the idea of a "screensaver" for it though... :)
  • I'd like to see... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Trevin (570491)
    ... if this can support emacs. Just think of all the layouts it would have to have -- one for each prefix key in the global keymap and variants for each supported major and minor mode! And what would it do if any of those keymaps were customized?
  • they also have another nice project in the works... the Optimus Upravlator

    they should think to introduce the Optimus Upravlator to Diebold, ES&S, Sequioa and the other voting machine manufacturers

    The Optimus Upravlator seems to have ample space on each key to display a candidate's name directly on each button ( and left-right scroll arrows maybe on the bottom left and bottom right keys, if the list is longer than the available keys can display ).

    Moreover, for voting machines you don't need all the elect
  • A "good" mobile phone doesn't only cost $400. New Motorola and Nokias can easily cost $600. Some of the more advanced phones can go for $800. And if you're looking overseas where they have phones far more sophisticated than anything currently available in the US then expect prices in the range of $1000.

    The definition of "good" is fairly broad. Do you mean "good" as in average or "good" as in top-of-the-line?
  • by BigBuckHunter (722855) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:49PM (#16908138)
    Hey, You're using an international layout keyboard, aren't you?

    zes, how did zou know?

    BBH
  • No scaling up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kris_J (10111) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @08:37PM (#16908480) Journal
    Their 3-button model didn't get a brilliant review [xbitlabs.com]; It had a 3 FPS refresh rate, gave off an annoying whine and appeared to use 10% of the CPU on a powerful PC.

    Now for the keyboard they've dropped OLED, dropped the extra function keys and moved back to LCD meaning that you'll need an external power brick to power it.

  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @08:46PM (#16908544) Journal
    Nearly a year and a half after some spiffy 3D rendered pics, they've almost got a product out that vaguely resembles the original idea. In the meantime, the product has become so infamous that the little 3-button teaser product needed a note specifically saying it wasn't vapourware when ThinkGeek opened up pre-orders. I think they peaked too soon.

    Meanwhile, the Ideazon Zboard (a range of key sets that include highly customised key shapes) and the Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard (LCD display built into keyboard) have been in the market for ages. And they're affordable.

  • Touch Typists (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chris_sawtell (10326) on Monday November 20, 2006 @06:09AM (#16912094) Journal
    What a load of expensive dung. No decent touch typist ever looks at the keys! So what's the point?

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