by Anton Shilov
10/01/2013 | 11:30 PM
Art Lebedev, a leading design studio from Russia, this week initiated mass production of Optimus Popularis, a next-generation keyboard with programmable display inside every key. The product, which was originally supposed to be cost efficient version of Optimus Maximus, will cost nearly a $1000 and will be available late this year.
“Finally production of our newest keyboard model – Optimus Popularis – has started,” said Artemy Lebedev, chief executive of Art Lebedev studio.
Optimus Popularis is based on one large screen incorporated inside the keyboard with transparent keys, each of which can be programmed separately and perform a unique function. Unlike its more expensive brethren, the now discontinued Optimus Maximus, which uses separate OLED screens inside each key, the novelty relies on simpler design yet it has buttons with higher resolution (64*64 pixels, up from 48*48 pixels). Unfortunately, the device sports no additional/programmable keys and may not become popular among those, who are used to full-sized keyboards.
Art Lebedev presented the first concept of Optimus Popularis in mid-2008 and promised to start its production in late 2008 or early 2009. The company did not initiate manufacturing of the keyboard either in 2008 or 2009, unveiled a new Popularis concept in late June, 2010, and again failed to ship the device in 2010. Nonetheless, in early-2011 Art Lebedev promised to finally release its keyboard with screens inside each key at sub-$1000 price-point that year.
Art Lebedev Optimus Popularis utilizes unibody aluminum design, similar to that used for Apple iPad or Apple MacBook laptops. Production of the bodies has already started, according to the company.
“It takes three hours to cut one aluminum frame for the keys. [Milling] machines work 24/7. First keyboards to be shipped before the New Year,” added Mr. Lebedev.
At present Optimus Popularis can be pre-ordered for $955/€797 at the company's online store.