Aah, Veronica Belmont, I wish you would ask the hard questions… Yes, the Mahalo/Engadget geek-reporter got an in-person demo (with Artemy Lebedev) of an Optimus Maximus keyboard at CES, but (predictably) the video leaves much to be desired. You might remember my earlier discussion of this amazing $1500 OLED-equipped display/keyboard monstrosity. I’m still not buying it!
I was surprised that, although the keyboard seems to be functional, Mahalo doesn’t show the OLED keys actually change. I would have thought that would be a good use of 15 seconds… The updating doesn’t seem to work either – the keys have pictures, and they flicker and go out when Art unplugs the board’s power, but they never get updated with the “tasteless” designs he creates on the iMac! In fact, when he powers on the keyboard again, it appears that it never comes back to life at all – random colored squares are displayed instead of letters! Could it be that the ultra-board still doesn’t, you know, work?!?
He spends a lot of time demoing the ability to create custom key displays, even mentioning that you could play Tetris on the board, but there were some concerning bits… He never mentions animation, says that the key macro plugins “have to be created by us”, and stresses that the initial shipment (“now”) won’t be user-upgradeable. So if you want your Maximus today, you get a pretty, $1500 keyboard with lots of pictures that you can’t change. Yay!
I’m still not sold on the Maximus. I love the concept of in-key displays in general, as in a remote control or computer peripheral, but am not sure that this is the right execution of that concept. Ars Technica reports that the keys are wide and the screens don’t move, making typing difficult, Wired notes the amazing greasiness of the keys, and did I mention how expensive it is? But hey, you can pull a Cash/Kemp and buy that keyboard one key at a time! I’d love to see some company in Shenzhen take the idea and run with it.
On the other hand, I really do like the Lebedev Mini Three. For “only” $150, you get a three-key display that might do what Windows SideShow hasn’t been able to deliver – add peripheral displays to the PC. And since that “PC” can be a Mac, lots of folks will be happy!