Easily one of the coolest concepts of 2005 was the Optimus OLED keyboard
from the Russian industrial design gurus at Art Lebedev Studio.
If you missed the enormous buzz surrounding it, what it basically does is replace every key on a regular keyboard with an mini OLED display. Using custom software, you can then download unique icons for each individual key, instantly giving you a visual clue of what each key does in various applications.
For example, instead of remembering dozens of obscure keyboard shortcuts for various tools in Photoshop, the keyboard simply mirrors the on-screen icons for the Crop Tool, Eraser tool et al.
The keyboard has particular potential in games, where you can map icons for every weapon, inventory item and movement button to the appropiate key for your own personal config. And you can have a new set for every game you play: F.E.A.R., Battlefield 2, Counter-Strike and more.
The project has been dogged by cries of 'vapourware' from nay-sayers, who question whether the final product will ever appear, let alone function as promised. Ignoring the substantial cost, estimated to be US$300 or more, the release of the full-size Optimus OLED keyboard has pushed back to 'End of 2006'.
Since nobody has attempted anything on this scale before, Art Lebedev Studio have today announced an interim product: the Optimus mini three keyboard
. As the name suggests, it features just three OLED keys. The keys have a resolution of 96x96 pixels and can display 262,000 colours and animation at 5 frames per second.
It can be orientated either vertically or horizontally and functions similar to the shortcut keys on the many Multimedia keyboards on the market - a dedicated keypad for commonly used functions. The key difference, aside from the colour displays, is that it can be configured on a per-application basis.
The Optimus mini three keyboard is now available for pre-order
starting this week, priced US$100 until 2nd April after which the price "will be higher" according to the Art Lebedev website. Shipping has been promised for 15th May.
The Art Lebedev Studio website
is having a heart attack under the strain of global attention right now, so here are a few examples of the Optimus mini threee keyboard configured for different applications.
iTunes control panel
Optimus configurator software
You can use the CTRL / ALT keys to access more functions than just three, but having said that, at US$33 per key, you're paying one hell of a premium just to save you from remembering that the Lasso Tool in Photoshop is the 'L' key.
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