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Hardware Technology

Update on the Optimus Keyboard 579

paulius_g writes "It seems that Art Lebedev has reposnded to the Slashdotting that occured to their page about the ' Optimus Keyboard'. They have included a FAQ at the middle-right of the page stating some of the questions that Slashdotters were wondering. A few interestign ones were ' It will be real', 'We hope it will be released in 2006', 'It will cost less than a good mobile phone', 'It will be OS-independent', and finally 'It will most likely use OLED technology (e-paper is sooo slow)'. They've also included some common answers abotu Russia and it seems that they are as well searching OEMs (From the FAQ: OEM will be possible (why not?), Contact us for hi-res images, or interview inquires). It will be very interesting to see how this technological marvel will be created. Sign me up! I'll be ordering one in 2006."
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Update on the Optimus Keyboard

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  • by turtled ( 845180 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:47AM (#13094238)
    'It will cost less than a good mobile phone'

    I have gotten a good one, and it was free. Then there are the phones that cost upwards of $250~$300

    This keyboard will be great for mapping keys for games =)
  • Too bad it's not available in 'ergonomic' styles :\

    I love my MS ergo keyboard.
  • by RamboIII ( 899894 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:49AM (#13094267)
    The FAQ:

    Frequently Answered Answers about the Optimus keyboard
    It's in initial stage of production
    We hope it will be released in 2006
    It will cost less than a good mobile phone
    It will be real
    It will be OS-independent (at least it can
    work in some default state with any OS)
    It will support any language or layout
    Moscow is the capital of Russia
    Each key could be programmed to produce any sequence
    It will be an open-source keyboard, SDK will be available
    Some day it will be split ('ergonomic')
    It will most likely use OLED technology (e-paper is sooo slow)
    Our studio is located two blocks from the Kremlin
    It will feature a key-saver
    Keys will use animation when needed
    It has numeric keypad because we love it
    There's no snow in Moscow during Summer
    It will be available worldwide (why not?)
    OEM will be possible (why not?)
    Contact us for hi-res images, or interview inquires

    We want to thank everyone for the support. Stay tuned for our next projects

    • by nkh ( 750837 ) <.exochicken. .at.> on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:03PM (#13094484) Journal
      It will be an open-source keyboard, SDK will be available
      Keys will use animation when needed

      SDK + animation = mini games on your keyboard! And with the layout for different languages, I really hope this thing doesn't get as vapotware as the Phantom gaming console.
      • I'd expect that to be unlikely only because I'd expect the refreah rate for the key displays to be very low. In order to get the hardware cost down, I expect there will be a lot of sharing of the logic used to update the displays. As a result, it could take on the order of seconds to update the display of a given key.

        This is perfectly acceptable for the main function of a keyboard where waiting a couple seconds to load a new key layout isn't big deal (especially since the app won't load instantly anyway).
        • But they specifically mentioned that e-paper would be too slow, so I'm thinking that they will have animation on the keys, and at a relatively good rate.

          Though of course, this is all speculation. I'm taking a "wait-and-see" attitude. But if it lives up to expectation... could be cool.
      • by kjkeefe ( 581605 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @01:27PM (#13095425)
        Can anyone say whack-a-mole!?!
    • It will cost less than a good mobile phone

      Ah, the magic of flawed logic...

      The beauty of this phrase is that it means absolutely nothing. Just like the old sales pitch "it's cheaper than the best from and better than the cheapest from ": it doesn't mean it's either good or cheap.

      So, my mobile phone cost me $100 and it's perfectly good for me: will the keyboard cost less than $100? like hell. And a "good mobile phone" may well be one of these $1000 things from Nokia in the eyes of Lebedev, so I'm not hol
    • open source? "key saver" functionality? sweeeeet.

      you know they could write some very simple games for this thing, that would be really neat ... imagine a whack-a-mole type game, where all your keys are blank, and one will light up with some mole image or whatever, and you have to hit that key before it changes. the possibilities are endless.
      • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:20PM (#13094692)
        imagine a whack-a-mole type game, where all your keys are blank, and one will light up with some mole image or whatever, and you have to hit that key before it changes. the possibilities are endless.

        Good point. For kids this could be really useful, educational etc. Could teach typing, memory (the match the symbols game), and a whole other load of stuff.

        However. Do you want your kids playing wack-a-mole with your expensive OED keyboard? Mine will be ALL mine!!

  • by nurhussein ( 864532 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:49AM (#13094273) Homepage
    We have things like:

    Moscow is the capital of Russia

    There's no snow in Moscow during Summer

    I'm afraid to find the comments that spawned those replies. But it does sound like /.

  • by pegr ( 46683 )
    Don't get me wrong, I like the looks of this keyboard as much as anyone else, but...

    If there's one thing I hate worse than vaporware, it's hype. Show me, don't tell me.
    • Then why don't you ignore the keyboard for 2 years and then come back?

      It's not like they can release a keyboard design one day and have it in production the next....Their FAQ says they "hope it will be released in 2006". If there's still vaporware and hype in, oh, 2008 or so, then you have a valid point.
    • shaddup (Score:5, Insightful)

      by odigity ( 266563 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @01:17PM (#13095320)
      If there's one thing I hate worse than vaporware, it's hype. Show me, don't tell me.

      Quit your bitching. They didn't come to us, we linked to them, slashdotted their site, and posted tons of questions about them. They were cool enough to take the time to respond to them, and the answers were somewhat informative - in other words, not just marketing babble (not surprising, since they're inventors, not marketers).

      I like to know what might be coming down the pipe, even if it never materializes. *Especially* if it never materializes, because then at least they contributed to the human idea pool, which might inspire others to build the same or related products.

      Besides, its not like these guys don't have a track record of delivering.
  • by Zane Hopkins ( 894230 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:50AM (#13094285) Homepage
    One question they haven't answered ... Whats the point of a keyboard where every key is a screen ?

    Are they trying to force touch typists to look at the keyboard like everyone else has to?
    • The use is plain: many applications make keys do something other than the immutable icons stamped onto normal keyboards. Instead of looking up key function mapping in a separate manual or help file, the function is just right there on the keys.

      Heck, most of the time the "A" key doesn't produce "A", it produces "a" ... how much more so a zillion other applications which do things other than what's immutably marked on the keys.

    • Touch typists will still touch type. The keys won't be moving around in different positions or anything like that.

      Although, that might be a neat trick. Make random keys exchange positions on the keyboard at random intervals ...
    • The point of making every key a screen is so spyware developers can now market to you even while you're looking for the letters.

      Imagine all the cool neat things marketers and spyware companies will be able to do with it:
      • They'll be able to make scrolling messages.
      • Change keys to map them with icons of advertisers
      • Entire pictures of naked women with buttons flashing to take you to all kinds of "free" websites
      • Don't like the look of your regular, boring keys? Download Comet Keys! Now, with even more spywa
    • by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:38PM (#13094917) Homepage Journal
      Heh, apparently you missed the days of those cardboard layouts that went over keyboards. I distinctly remember one back when we had a PS/2, that showed Wordperfect 3.x's (I think) may keyboard commands. Granted, this isn't as important now, but it'd still be interesting, if for no other reason than it'll lead to more than a few "Oh! I didn't know you could do that by pressing that, in Photoshop."
  • Seems expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfloy ( 899187 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:51AM (#13094300) Homepage
    The idea that it costs as much as a good mobile phone is vague. Do they mean $300 models or $800 high tech top-of-the-line phones? A keyboard would have to be absolutely revolutionary, fantastic and wonderful for me to spend $300, let alone $800. Well, only time will tell.
    • Let them make it, let them make their own mistakes too. IPods are also quite expensive and they sell. Maybe this will sell maybe not.

    • I'd worry about dead pixles on the keys. And failure rates for keys, stuff like that.
      Seriously, the more complex a system, the more likely a chance of failure. The 101 keyboard is just one switch under one key, fairly easy to deal with.

      I like the idea though.

      • It's clear that they're making it more complicated than necessary to achieve the same functional effect.

        I wonder why they wouldn't start by using cheap LCDs like l those used on Tiger handheld games (and the ones that come in Happy Meals). They could do that with only a small cost increase over a regular keyboard. You wouldn't get color, but add a backlight source and they'd be viewable in the dark and work just as well as color keys.

        Besides, failure rate on those simple LCDs is near zero. This is digital
    • I'd like to know who is producing it.
    • Re:Seems expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:07PM (#13094529) Homepage
      I've never understood why people are unwilling to shell out money for a good keyboard, but will cheerfully plop down money for the hottest CPU or latest video card. I'm not saying the OP in specific is this type of person, it's just something that gets said a lot, 'no way am I paying more than $20 for my keyboard'.

      Granted, I ain't paying $300 for a keyboard either, but I did pay about $100 for my buckling spring keyboard.

      The keyboard is still the primary input device for a majority of computing tasks, to me logic would suggest spending as much on it as you can afford. They don't become obsolete, either. Get a good keyboard and it might even outlast you. ;)
    • Or do the mean cell phones like the Vertu [] line of cell phones, ranging upwards of $20,000...
    • Re:Seems expensive (Score:4, Informative)

      by MrNonchalant ( 767683 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:22PM (#13094720)
      In an interview linked to by Gizmodo ( []) he said $200 is very optimistic and $300 is just optimistic. If it had enough application support I might buy it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:51AM (#13094301)
    I think it would be incredibly badass if, when you press down on the shift key, the lowercase letters change to capital letters, and the numbers change to special characters, etc.

    Also, when you hold control, the word 'copy' appears on the C-key, 'paste' on the V-key, etc.

    That would rock.
    • Ah yes!

      And this keyboard will also allow people to try out some "smarter" layouts kile Dvorak allowing them to go back if they don't like it, or use it only for like one hour a day for practice, then revert to QWERTY or whatever you're using!

      I really look forward to it.. or maybe a lower-cost version in 1 or 2 years anyway!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, a badass keyboard would be made from recycled battleship steel. And the keys would be unlabelled.
    • That's pretty cool, but I'm looking forward to whole-keyboard remapping. I use Dvorak mostly, and it's great, but because I have a QWERTY keyboard, I can't hunt-n-peck with Dvorak, I can only touch type. It's annoying to have to move both hands to the keys just to fill in a form or something. So if the keyboard could switch between QWERTY and Dvorak (which is kinda it's point), it would be useful to me.

      Two things bother me about its design, though. One, the Enter key. The enter key is the most importa

    • by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:30PM (#13094803) Journal
      This is a great idea and will most likely be the second mod released for this keyboard. The first mod will replace all the letters on the keyboard with boobs.
    • Yeah and under Windows, when you hold the alt key, the number pad would start cascading a bazillion different number possibilities for Unicode commands. Study up, Tank! :\

      --Been away from a Mac at work for farrrr too long.
  • This calls for... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alcoyotl ( 157542 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:52AM (#13094308) Homepage Journal
    Let's open an "Ask Slashdot" topic named : best programmable keyboard. Any ideas (ergodex, POS keyboards, XKeys...) ?
  • Unanswered Questions (Score:5, Informative)

    by TPIRman ( 142895 ) * on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:52AM (#13094322)
    This keyboard looks like a great way to easily explore the capabilities of powerful apps especially for beginner users. But the 10-key area on the left for application, while it looks pretty sharp, worries me.

    Would this keyboard require you to switch modes manually? Power users might jump between apps a lot when putting together, say, a music video in Final Cut or a pamphlet in InDesign. Am I going to have to hit the appropriate key every time I switch apps? This could get drudgerous pretty quickly.

    Then again, someone who has their workflow down likely doesn't need OLEDs to remind them of keyboard shortcuts, so my complaint might be mootwrong target market. It still seems that the board would be more of a "killer app" type of thing if it were context-sensitive and didn't require prompting from the user.
    • It turns out some people use computers for other things than work. I know... crazy, but there it is. Some of these people are willing to spend big piles of dollars to enhance the value of this entertainment, and this goes double if the gizmo looks cool.

      Now go play some of today's more complicated computer games like WWII Online and you'll stop wondering what the market of this thing is in a heartbeat.

    • Am I going to have to hit the appropriate key every time I switch apps?

      You would use the appropriate key to switch apps.
    • Quote from TFA: "Every key of the Optimus keyboard is a stand-alone display showing exactly what it is controlling at this very moment."

      I think that makes it perfectly possible to do context sensitive.
      The keyboard driver could monitor which app is active at any moment and swap "keymaps" on the fly (Hey! Art? You reading this?! ;), while still having the possibility of switching between several modes *within* the program by using the keys on the left.
    • Well, with the open SDK, it would seem possible that you could have it react to your own events, such as a window gaining focus or an app starting. The app keys might both start the app and switch the keyboard layout.

      It would also be cool to hack it to do nifty effects. How about changing the keys' background color to service as a UV meter thought a WinAmp plugin? Or have the num pad act as a little info center when not in use, with little graphs for cpu temp, usage, etc. Have the F key row flash when
    • "This keyboard looks like a great way to easily explore the capabilities of powerful apps especially for beginner users."

      You use Blender, I presume.

  • Power Consumption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by d3m057h3n35 ( 695460 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:53AM (#13094334)
    How much power would this thing draw (and can we even guess at that accurately)? Would it need to be plugged in to its own outlet, or would power over USB be enough?
    • Not only power concerns, but the first thing I thought when I saw those keys is, "That's not going to clean up very well." And we thought grimy keys were noticible now, just wait until you actually have to see the lettering on them to be sure you're pressing the right thing...
  • Why are the keys still arranged like on a typewriter and not in nice vertical columns?
  • by whyde ( 123448 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:56AM (#13094373)
    They say: "Enter" key is big in size and nearly square in form.

    I say: It had better be, since it is in a completely different zipcode from the home row keys. What's up with the extra 2 keys on the home row between JKL; and Enter? It's impossible to hit their Enter key without moving your right hand off the home row.

    Industrial designers are like Architects: they design something idiotic, then let an Engineer figure out how to make it work in a useful way.

    If all keys are visually remappable, then they really need fewer keys. I'm still disappointed at all the junk (arrow cluster, numeric pad) on the right side of the home row between me and my mouse.

    If this came in a "Happy Hacker" footprint, then they may get my attention. Right now, it's too many colorful, expensive, redundant, unnecessary buttons.

    What I've found pleasant in the meantime is a laptop-style keyboard with a marble-mouse beside it. From the mouse, I can reach the PgUp/PgDn keys on the small-footprint keyboard with my thumb, like getting two extra buttons for free.

    • My mouse (trackball) sits nicely next to my keyboard on the left and "balances" the number pad on the right. It leaves everything sitting dead center on my monitor(s).

      Of course, I have to find a mouse/trackball that isn't handed. And a joystick that isn't handed. (which I'll set in the same position if it's a flightstick) And I have to remap the keys on every game because they expect you to use the left half of the keyboard, and with an ergonomic and a right hand to key with, that's not so useful.
      • When putting the pointing device on the Left-side of the keyboard, you lose the easy utility of modifier keys (Ctrl/Alt) on some keyboards when doing modified mouse button chords. Think: Ctrl-Button2 in an xterm.

        I realize that some (full-size) keboards have redundant Ctrl/Alt/Windows keys on the right side, but that's not a guarantee. It does improve posture, since you're not sitting with your arms bent to the left all day long, and your wrist in a strange position to compensate.

        I blame the whole thing
    • ... but the enter key not being in the predicted place will likely kill the deal. The extra doohickies on the right of the normal keyspace (numeric, etc.) I have no complaints with at all.

      I've wanted a keyboard like this since I was about fourteen, so I'll probably grab one at launch anyway, though. I just wish they wouldn't screw with the basics of typing, I hit three to seven machines in a day and don't need anything else different beyond the normal del/backspace caps lock/ctrl and dvorak/qwerty differ
    • What's up with the extra 2 keys on the home row between JKL; and Enter? It's impossible to hit their Enter key without moving your right hand off the home row.

      That's where characters in alphabets with > 26 letters would go. It's a Russian keyboard, wouldn't it make sense that they'd allow for non-English layouts?

      If all keys are visually remappable, then they really need fewer keys. I'm still disappointed at all the junk (arrow cluster, numeric pad) on the right side of the home row

      Meanwhile, most

    • Industrial designers are like Architects: they design something idiotic, then let an Engineer figure out how to make it work in a useful way.

      whoa whoa whoa buddy. Back up a bit. Not to get defensive here, but this is a totally falacious statement. Its regrettable that the current high profile architects are to some extent rediculous devotees to the "big blob" school of arch, but I assure you thats not how we operate on the whole. Architects, like all designers, are trained to identify a need and conceptua

    • What's up with the extra 2 keys on the home row between JKL; and Enter?

      As others here pointed out, this keyboard is to be compatible with international keyboards. Comparing to a Finnish keyboard there is one extra key after JKLÖÄ' and two on the row above after OPÅ + umlaut. But I agree that the Enter-key is a problem. Comparing with my keyboard it has moved one row down and quite a bit to the right in the place where right shift should be, which isn't good. Also, the left shift should

  • If I spill my drink (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:56AM (#13094377)

    Will they keyboard remain operational with the occasional spill? I can imgine these displays to be very sensitive to such a thing.

    What about smoke, food, pubes, and other things that one might encounter in the average robust keyboard?

    • When my keyboards get full of crap, I ussually just toss them out and buy a new one for $10. The time it would take to clean is not worth it.

      If im going to spend a couple hundred dollars on a keyboard, I want to be able to hold up whatever gets in the keys and be able to be cleaned very easily.
  • Domuarigato, spelling abotu!
  • It's about time -- I've always wanted a keyboard like this. What I didn't expect, though, was color; that's a nifty little bonus. Additionally, the fact that I see Macintosh keys is fairly encouraging. Hopefully that means that there will be out of the box support for the Mac OS. Yeah, I know they said universal compatibility, but they also said "on a basic level."

  • e-paper slow? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TCM ( 130219 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @11:58AM (#13094405)
    Just how slow is it? It's not like you'd be running animations on the keyboard, although that would increase the coolness factor.

    Most of the time, though, you would have a single update in seconds instead of several updates per second.
  • That is one (Score:2, Informative)

    totally awsome, cool, Excellent keyboard. Let us know as soon as it's available. I want one.

    not quite the way I envisioned a similar concept once, but better, definitely better.

  • by DeadVulcan ( 182139 ) <dead.vulcan@pobo[ ]om ['x.c' in gap]> on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:01PM (#13094463)

    Look at the size of the escape key! Yeah, baby.

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:08PM (#13094546) Homepage
    Now I'll be shouting at folk not to leave their greasy fingerprints on my keyboard too!
  • Apple... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by avalys ( 221114 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:11PM (#13094583)
    I bet Apple will snap this up, at least as an option on some of their models. Hell, it already looks like Apple designed it, the style is the same.

    Hopefully it will be wireless.

    Personally, I'd want one of these just for the cool factor. And the opportunity to finally try Dvorak.
  • ...Microsoft "innovates" this concept into their keyboard line.

    I think it's really smart of this company to make it platform independent. EVERYTHING should be that way to encourage competition.
  • Or rather, my wife will. She learned to type in the late 1970s on a manual typewriter, and she pounds the hell out of keyboards; she just never learned a lighter touch. It would be interesting to see how the OLEDs hold up to the punishment of several thousand words a day under her fingers.
  • Allow tech support and training to modify the keys at any time.

    Imagine telling a person on the phone to press "these keys" and all the other keys go dark except those. You could get into some really neat applications like this.
  • ..are nothing new []. OLEDs are more appropriate for keyboard switches, since they don't need backlight and glass.
  • by sEEKz ( 113902 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:22PM (#13094717) Homepage
    Curious to know what OLED technology is, i went over to Wikipedia [] and saw there where some disadvanteges with this technology:

    Quoted from Wikipedia []:

    The biggest technical problem left to overcome now is lifetime. Red and green OLED elements already have life-times of well over 20,000 hours but blue OLED life-times lag significantly behind at 1,000 hours.

    According to Kodak, which is developing small molecule OLED, lifetime problems are not so significant for that type of OLED, mainly as a result of doping the base material of the OLEDs, which, they claim, has led to much better device performance both electrically and optically. Universal Display for example have produced a blue OLED that has a lifetime of 10,000 hours.

    There are still a number of problems to overcome though, and one of these is intrusion of water into displays which damages and destroys the organics, as well as outcoupling, which can result in the loss of much of the light in waveguided modes within the substrates.

    In May 2005 Cambridge Display Technology announced a blue OLED with a lifetime of over 100,000 hours. Commercial development of the technology is also hampered by intellectual property issues since even the basics of OLED technology is heavily patented by Kodak and other firms, requiring outside research teams to acquire a license.
  • Just watch. It will happen. One day you'll be typing and look down at a viagra pill where your enter key used to be.
  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wescotte ( 732385 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @12:34PM (#13094855)
    We'll have the ability to provide people with an "Any" key!
  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Monday July 18, 2005 @01:14PM (#13095288)
    While I hope everything they speak of makes it in to this package (i mean, damn, it's a sweet idea!), things here should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Why? Because their team so far only consists of concept designers, and has no engineers. So, it's very likely that what they say, and what is actually feasable in the end may differ greatly.

    Here's to hoping that my words are just paranoid ramblings :)

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban