$1,200 keyboard. Nope, it isn't April 1st!

$1,200 keyboard. Nope, it isn't April 1st!

Summary: Still looking for some holiday stocking fillers … how about a keyboard? It has 103 keys and can display images on each key using OLEDs (Organic LEDs). Price? If you need to ask the price, this keyboard isn't for you!

TOPICS: Hardware

Still looking for some holiday stocking fillers … how about a keyboard?  It has 103 keys and can display images on each key using OLEDs (Organic LEDs).  Price?  If you need to ask the price, this keyboard isn't for you! 

Introducing the Optimus Keyboard by Art Lebedev.

Optimus Keyboard - well, as it used to look

If you need to ask the price, this keyboard isn't for you! Well, that's not really it.  That's what the concept keyboard looked like about a year ago.  Back then each key had a full-size color OLED display.  Since then a lot of features have been dropped.  Gone are the color OLEDs, full-key images, and the launcher keys (shown in the image above).  For anyone who's been following the Optimus keyboard with an idea of buying one (as I was initially), Lebedev over-promised and then later under-delivered on features (that's the danger of pre-announcing a product to generate buzz - if you can't deliver, you're open for attack).  The price is just the final nail in the coffin of this project.  The price is set to come down to sub-$1,000 some time next year but even then this is still way overpriced in my opinion.

My guess is (and this is backed up by feedback to Lebedev himself on his blog) is that people are going to hold out until the price comes down or for the color version to be released. If that ever happens … I'm not holding my breath! 

If you like the idea then Lebedev also makes a 3-key version called the Optimus mini three.  This has a slightly saner pricetag of $121.  But it’s only three keys.  (I wonder what three functions I would choose for these keys???)

Optimus mini three

So, a $1,200 keyboard.  Whaddya think?  It's gotta be a geek's toy, and since the "geek quotient" here at ZDNet is way above average this particular bit of kit is aimed squarely at you.  To get an idea of what you think about this project, I've attached two polls to this post:

[poll id=41]
[poll id=42]

Topic: Hardware

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  • only $1200?

    is that with VAT included or excluded?

    BTW, maybe it has some use at the office/house of the future..
    Arnout Groen
  • Man, You Are REALLY Late On This ZDNet

    I saw this keyboard two years ago on geek.com and slashdot...

    Next thing you'll know you will report Elvis just died.
    • Rewind

      Two years ago thos was a different keyboard and no price. Did you actually read the article?

      Oh, and by the way, Elvis is dead.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • note:

      That was the showpiece, this is the actual product.
      glocks out
  • What's cool about this from gaming perspective

    This keyboard has some awesome potential. From a gaming point of view you could set up the keyboard for games. Right now you can buy keyboards for games that allow you to change the keys but they are hassle.

    Also thing of this from a language point of view. Want an Arablic or Chinese key board? No need to swap keyboards just change the display and character sets.

    For business and kioks you could configure the key board with specific keys to suit the business task.

    This has lots of uses, I'd buy one if the price get to be around $100. Right now I can buy an old style keyboard for $11 and Microsoft sells the expensive internet keyboard, useless, for $69 with extra buttons that you can sort of configure but not really.
    • Those big square keys look nasty

      Those big square keys look nasty, I bet it's not nice to type on...
  • Cool use of OLEDs

    Its a great concept, just too much money. If it were sub $500 and had a need for it, I would get one. I think OLEDs have a lot of potential.
  • cheaper solution

    .. would be to use your UMPC (ie, something with a touch-screen) and apps like "TouchBuddy"
    Maybe, less tactile pleasure (of feeling keys click under your fingers), but definitely much more freedom. Once I have done playing game, I just disconnect UMPC from a game PC, and use it for something else.
  • ...!

    Elvis is dead?!
    • Yeah man ...

      ... you heard it here first! ;-)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • One question

        Elvis' death had nothing to do with the keyboard, right?

        Seriously though, would something like this power from a keyboard/usb jack as standard keyboards do, or would it require it's own separate power adapter (translation: Even more wires)
        John Zern
        • It's USB

          It's a USB keyboard ... no extra wires.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Debugging

    I would LOVE to have the three key one for debugging (particularly if I could have a wireless version). Assign one key for break, one for step into, and one for step over, it would be a truly cool thing, especially when showing code flow to a group of people!

    Then again, I just spent $160 on eBay ($300 list) for a Kenisis Keyboard (http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/programming-and-development/?p=345) and another $700 or so just on monitors...

    Justin James
    • That would be sweet

      Yeah, that would be pretty sweet use for the mini three - and a wireless variety would be a really good idea.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Not for real workers

    No one who really knows how to type ever looks at his/her keyboard anyway.

    It would be far more impressive if it were integrated into a laptop. That way, you could show off the capability to people you meet. Here, you need to invite them into your bedroom in your parents' basement.

    Which explains why uber-geeks are pretty much the only people silly enough to buy into this dubious technology. Still, the tech world needs bling, too, and there's a sucker born every minute.

    And if this doesn't fly, there's always the diamond-encrusted cell phone.

  • And we need this because?

    from a billion different perspectives, i can't see how thisis going to be actually useful, or (god forbid) cost effective. As a gamer, why would I want another keyboard? as a businessman, what is there that this can do that I can't do with the peripherals I already have? Heck, if I wanted something useless and expensive I'd go buy a robosapien or something.
    • because u can write only in one language

      You need such a keyboard if you can write in more than one
      language - it is very obvious! Americans have no need for it.... but
      Asians and Europeans do!
    • because you need a $1200 keyboard

      so they can post a big idiot sign on your forehead for buying such a stupid keyboard
      • Maybe ...

        ... it's a $20 keyboard, but the sign costs $1180.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • its worth 150 bucks....

          bloody foreigners like me have a need to have such keyboards.
          As mentioned: 200 mio. Americans have no need for it - all
          other americans plus those from OLD Europe, Asia etc. who
          speak more than just ONE language, can see the potential
          behind this keyboard.
          JUst the IBM Lab Japan and the Aussie Patent Ofiice in Canberra
          (as far as I remember) didn't grasp the idea in 1985-1986 to
          have dynamic keyboards (called FDK using illuminated ICONs to
          represent any charater set, so you could switch from an english
          keybaord layout to a french, german one etc.). maybe someone
          else before me came up with such a thing before 1985 - god
          knows :)) I didn't get the patent Downunder when I tried to
          register it.