Optimus Maximus keyboard
|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (September 2008)|
The Optimus Maximus keyboard, previously just "Optimus keyboard", is a keyboard developed by the Art. Lebedev Studio, a Russian design studio headed by Artemy Lebedev. Each of its keys is a display which can dynamically change to adapt to the keyboard layout in use or to show the function of the key. Pre-orders began on May 20, 2007 for a limited production run from December 2007 to January 2008, with a second batch expected to arrive in February 2008. It first started shipping the week of February 21, 2008.
The design featured on the studio's website received attention on the web when it was featured on Slashdot on July 14, 2005, and afterwards for a few weeks on other technology websites. The original release date was "end of 2006", however production issues caused the Optimus mini three to be developed first, with the full keyboard delayed until the end of 2007. The keyboard was number 10 in the Wired Magazine 2006 Vaporware Awards and number 4 on the list in 2007 due to its numerous delays and feature reductions.
The Optimus allows for greater user interaction, by dynamically displaying the current function of the keys. For example, when the user presses the shift key, the pictures would change to upper-case versions. It would also make switching between different keyboard layouts (such as English and Cyrillic) rapid, and could make the switch to alternative layouts such as Dvorak easier for people who only have a QWERTY keyboard with no possibility of rearranging the keys. To demonstrate this concept, there are computer renderings showing example layouts for Quake III Arena and Adobe Photoshop.
Optimus mini three
Art. Lebedev Studio has released a smaller three-key version of their keyboard, named Optimus mini three. Each of the keys is larger than a standard key. The mini three can be adjusted, through the configuration software, to either a horizontal or vertical orientation.
Initial reviews have been mixed. The keyboard functions as advertised, but it has been criticized for inordinately high CPU usage, slow response time, and buggy configuration software.
On July 21, 2008, Engadget posted about a new version of the keyboard, named Optimus Pultius. It features 15 OLED keys in a three-by-five arrangement and a USB port. It is expected to be released in late 2008 or early 2009. On September 19, 2008, Engadget also reported that the Pultius had been renamed to the Aux and included a new rendering of the rear side showing that there would be two USB ports instead of one.
Some reports indicate that the keyboards started shipping on February 21, 2008.
Variations with fewer OLED keys will also be available, each upgradeable by replacing static keys with OLED keys after purchase. For keyboards with less than a full complement of OLED "active keys", additional keys can be purchased and installed.
The patent for this "Display Keyboard" (U.S. Patent 5,818,361) is held by inventor Elkin Acevedo. However, the first programmable LCD keyboard  was developed in the mid-1980s in Germany. This keyboard, sold under the LCBoard name in the U.S. until 1999, contained many of the features of the Optimus keyboard including monochrome graphic icons on each keyboard key, macro programming, context sensitive and application dependent switching between functions.
Art. Lebedev Studio is expecting to manufacture the keyboard with these features:
- A plastic body (width: 537 mm, depth: 173 mm, height: 38 mm)
- Extra-durable polymer plastic keys (20.2×20.2 mm, visible area 10.1×10.1 mm)
- 48×48 pixel screens, Highcolor mode (65 536 colors, 10 frame/s)
- Organic light-emitting diode screen for keys
- USB 2.0 (or 1.1) connectivity
- 4-5 year lifetime
- A key-saver mode
- Support for animation on keys at 10 frame/s minimum
- Ability to form a mosaic using a combination of key images
- Compatibility with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.5.1 (and higher).
- An SDK for complete display customization
- Swappable keys and support for keys without displays
- 32 MB SD card for storing basic layouts
- Non-stop glow time at nominal brightness of 20,000 hours, after which display quality will diminish
- An ambient light sensor which can be used to automatically adjust display brightness
- A viewing angle of 160°
Engadget published an early impression of the keyboard, approving of the quality of the displays, the build quality of the keyboard, and the customisation software. However, they note that the keys' high resistance means that it is tiring to type on (exhausting the author in "30 seconds to a minute"), and therefore "it's better off used as an absurdly configurable Swiss army knife".
- 2006 Wired Vaporware Awards
- 2007 Wired Vaporware Awards - #4
- New Apple Dynamic OLED Keyboard, hrmpf.com
- Optimus-like OLED Apple Keyboard?, MacRumors.com
- Optimus Mini Three: OLED keyboard reviewed, tweakers.net
- Optimus Pultius: because Maximus just isn't enough - Engadget
- optimus_project: New Optimus Family Member
- Optimus Pultius becomes Optimus Aux, new prototype shows up
- New Optimus Aux shots show a sexier vision
- Optimus Maximus Shipping News from a developer's blog
- Optimus Maximus official catalog page
- Optimus Keyboard, July 14, 2005, Gadgetopia
- A Brief History of the LCD Key Technology
- Frequently given answers about Optimus Maximus keyboard, Art. Lebedev Studio
- Optimus Maximus: at long last, we bring one home to test, By Ryan Block,February 22nd 2008, Engadget
- Optimus Maximus - The studio's page on the keyboard
- Life and Incredible Adventures of Optimus Keyboards - Official LiveJournal
- Optimus Keyboard With OLED Display Keys - Slashdot article
- Long before Optimus - A Brief History of the LCD Key Technology
- Episode 38 Episode of Tekzilla from June 20, 2008 featuring the keyboard.
- Optimus Tester - Software to identify faulty OLED keys on the Optimus Maximus