Optimus Maximus: The Rise and…Can you fall if you never rose?

optimus_maximus_01w.jpg

Russia! magazine takes a look back at the long and tumultuous gestation of the Optimus Maximus keyboard, the $1,500 keyboard from Art Lebedev with tiny OLED screens embedded under each hard-to-push keycaps.

And the notion that it’s really not all that useful? Nonsense. Designers, video editors and audio engineers, he insisted, were benefiting from the Optimus every day. But the keyboard also had a higher purpose from the very beginning – one that American critics tend to forget. “I wanted to create a typing interface that is compatible with Cyrillic,” Lebedev said. Keyboards, computers and the Internet were created for languages that employ the Latin alphabet, and English in particular. Lebedev wasn’t annoyed about this. Indeed, he’d benefited hugely from his country’s belated embrace of the computer. But it had always been clear to him that the typical keyboard layout was treating one half of the world like guests. As if their letters were an awkward substitute for the 26 ***real*** letters. No wonder he overcompensated by enabling video playback for every key. Otherwise, he risked excluding the ever-growing language of video memes. (And, for that matter, the illiterate.)

Lebedev said that, despite all the obstacles, he wasn’t planning on selling the idea to anyone. For him, the budding Optimus line is about the creative process, not the money. And he would never be able to stomach someone else taking control and messing things up. “I don’t think anyone will come close to what we’ve done with Optimus any time soon,” he said. “It’s the ultimate keyboard.”

I can’t help but agree. They clearly stumbled into the future of keyboards, but adoption just won’t happen until the tiny screens are so cheap as to be nearly disposable. (Color ePaper, probably.)

Optimus Pride [ReadRussia.com]

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4 Responses to Optimus Maximus: The Rise and…Can you fall if you never rose?

  1. Downpressor says:

    A language/application reprogrammable keyboard is indeed a neat idea. AFAIK the issue is mostly long solved by years of manufacturing language specific hardware or front end processor intermediate software for those who type outside the roman alphabet.

    I’m willing to bet that the real potential benefactors of this are the few of us who type in more than one language/character set. Windows attempts (poorly) to support multi language input, OSX does a great job of separating your environment language, your input language and keyboard layout, but theres still the problem of keyboard layouts/keycaps when dealing with non-Roman alphabets.

    I’d like to learn to type in Hebrew, but I dont know the keyboard layout and considering how crowded a Japanese keyboards keycaps are already, I cant see using overlay stickers. A product like this could certainly address this by allowing the user to select what language symbols displayed on the keys.

  2. OM says:

    …Hell, you want a disposable keyboard, Logitech made one whose cost-per-single-unit to them was only about $2.25 USD in 1994 dollars. They lasted about as long as the MSRP of $9.00 USD back then would have led you to expect, but if you needed a keyboard in an environment that would have chewed up a regular(*) in the same amount of time as the disposable one, this would save you some $$$ in the long run even if you had to replace it every three or four months!

    Does Art still make those Bomb Banks?

    (*) Read: Anything *other* than the IBM 84-key steel jobs that came with the 5051s. Now *those* were keyboards you could kill people with!

  3. OM says:

    “I’d like to learn to type in Hebrew”

    …Doesn’t the [ENTER] key need to be on the left side for that?
    :-P

  4. Downpressor says:

    Zing!

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