by Anton Shilov
02/03/2014 | 11:50 PM
Art Lebedev, a leading design studio from Russia, has quietly updated its web-site and revealed the date when it starts to ship its long-awaited Optimus Popularis keyboard with interactive markings inside every key. In addition to the launch date, the new keyboard also got a surprising price rise that further puts it out of the mainstream market range.
Art Lebedev will begin to ship its all-new Optimus Popularis keyboard on the 20th of March, 2014, the company’s Russian online store claims. Just several days ago the same page said that the keyboards will be shipped on the 28th of February, 2014. Mass production of the product started back in October, so it is about a time to start volume shipments of the device.
Unfortunately, the price of the device remains largely unclear. Art Lebedev’s Russian online store sells the unit for 41500 roubles, which is €880/$1190/£731 (for some reason, the company claims 41500 roubles is equal to €933 or $1277). However, Art Lebedev’s English store offers Optimus Popularis for whopping 83005 roubles. Previously Art Lebedev charged $955/€797 for pre-orders.
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.