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Optimus Mini Three OLED keyboard reviewed 192

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-thats-a-let-down dept.
Robbedoeske writes "The first Optimums Mini Three keyboards have been shipped to Holland and Tweakers.net managed to lay hands on one of them to review this precious gem." Apparently the drivers crash a lot, consume way to much CPU, the device is capable of only 3 frames per second, and the packaging makes the images look far more crisp than the actual device. And with a price tag of over $100, I'm scared to imagine what the price of a full keyboard will actually be should it ever actually ship. But it still would be neat.
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Optimus Mini Three OLED keyboard reviewed

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  • Don't worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by tygerstripes (832644) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:15AM (#16213443)
    This is just the basic Optimus.

    There's more to the Prime edition than meets the eye.

  • Any Key (Score:5, Funny)

    by Apocalypse111 (597674) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:18AM (#16213465) Journal
    Am I the only one who wants to make a driver hack for the Optimus so that when the computer says, "Press any key to continue" that there actually IS an Any key?
    • It might take so many CPU cycles that the keyboard detect would timeout, so all we would have is:

      Keyboard not found. Press any key to continue.

    • Re:Any Key (Score:5, Funny)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:54AM (#16213929) Homepage
      This keyboard allows quick access to the three most commonly used keys; "Ctrl", "Alt" and "Delete". I just wonder whether the design is rugged enough to last a full week of Windows use.
    • by non (130182)
      at that point shouldn't they all say 'any'?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MrNonchalant (767683)
      That's one of the features already.

      http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-mini/ presentation/ [artlebedev.com]

      Go there and click Any.
  • Packaging? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by conigs (866121) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:18AM (#16213469) Homepage
    ...and the packaging makes the images look far more crisp than the actual device.

    I am shocked... shocked I tell you to learn that the image on the package looks better than the actual device. How could this possibly have happened? Who would dream of such a thing?

    Onto the device itself. I'm glad to see it develop and that it's more than just a concept. The technology is still in its infancy and it will take time for it to improve and come down to an affordable level. I'm looking forward to the day I can get a full keyboard like this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cyclomedia (882859)
      For the full keyboard it'd probably be better to use some kind of e-paper like system, you get the black and white contrast of your normal keys combined with the instant ability to switch languages or to FPS mode, albeit the latter with 4-shade greyscale icons. Color for the sake of color on such a small device seems pointless to me*

      *disclaimer: my PDA is about 6 years old, has 8mb ram, supports 16 shades of grey and a small but usable keyboard that you can actually type on, so i'm hardly the ultra techy ge
      • Color for the sake of color on such a small device seems pointless to me

        The thing is about colour in a user interface; if you don't notice it, it's doing it's job. Colour cues should be unconscious and subtle, instructing your mind of the widgets function without you having to think of it.

        Want to test this? Colour your "OK" option red and the cancel "green". See how many people it confuses.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by KDR_11k (778916)
          Or label the cancel button on your controller O and the confirm button X...
      • by blincoln (592401)
        Color for the sake of color on such a small device seems pointless to me

        Colour is a good way to do groupings of keys into categories. I'm thinking of the keyboard for Avid [msa.com.sg] in particular. Maybe you could go halfway and put greyscale LCDs on the tops of the keys, and have the sides be translucent white with a variable-colour LED inside? I don't know if that would be significantly cheaper in the end, though.

        I think it will be at least 5 years before this technology is genuinely affordable in a consumer keyboar
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jacobw (975909)
      Indeed. Anybody want to take bets on how long it takes to go from "buggy, overpriced, and useless" to "cheap and indispensable"? I'm betting 5 years, max.

      Of course, when it becomes ubiquitious, there will be certain downsides. You think the "zap the mosquito" ad is annoying now?

      Wait until the mosquito starts buzzing around your keyboard.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by oc255 (218044)
        I see your point of "ads everywhere", however I'm going to stay optimistic here. So let's say they ship a utility that lets you manage this spiffy new keyboard. It might look like a 3rd party mouse control panel, N52 gamepad, Palm Sync app. I doubt very much that it would allow automatic flash .swf syncing, not to mention a flash player engine on the keyboard itself.

        Allow if it did, someone would write adblock to block the ads or TiVo for keyboards to skip the ads using magical time-shifting techniques.

        L
    • since some large company is going to buy one of these, find a better way to manufacture them, and have them on the market very soon.
      Then sue these people.
  • wrapup (Score:5, Funny)

    by camusflage (65105) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:19AM (#16213477)
    It's buggy, slow, fraudulently packaged, consumes an inordinate amount of your CPU, has been delayed many times, delivers on only a fraction of its originally advertised functionality, and is extremely expensive.

    Has someone let Steve Ballmer know that Optimus has stolen Microsoft's marketing plan?????
    • "It's expensive, slow, sucks CPU, and crashes. The packaging is photoshopped by the same guy who removes the moles, stretch marks and rolls of skin in the Victoria's Secret catalogues.

      BUT I GOTTA HAVE IT!"

      Steve Jobs must be behind this somewhere, because you are under the control of a powerful Reality Distortion Field.
  • by strredwolf (532) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:20AM (#16213491) Homepage Journal
    I read through the article, and it looked like just a normal embedded chip with extra RAM hooked in for the displays. I wouldn't be suprized if the extra CPU on the PC is used to refresh the displays often.

    Ugh.

    I think a OLED full keyboard would be cool, but maybe if they used a double-USB device scheme it would be better: USB Keyboard and small USB storage for storing GIF files of each key.
  • by nagashi (684628) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:23AM (#16213513) Homepage
    Imagine being able to use those to switch virtual desktops, and having an image of the virtual desktop on those keys! =O As a bonus side effect, that'll clear up a bit of room on the taskbar, which is a pretty big deal for me. I prefer to have as much room on my taskbar devoted to tasks and not other misc stuffs such as applets, a gigantic clock, or thumbnails of each desktop. I'm seriously getting twitchy about the prospect of this xDD
    • Also, consider various gaming possibilities:

      RTS
      Assign a group of units to a button, and the button picture changes to, say, what the majority unit is in that group! Also, you could use the keyboard as a secondary output device, and reserve, say, the numpad for an overhead map. Hell, you could press a key on the numpad to go to that area of the map on the screen, cutting down on scroll time.

      FPS
      Buttons light up for various weapons as they become available, complete with updating ammo counts! Ok, n
      • by jandrese (485)
        The problem with using this in games is that you're going to have to look away from the screen to see what's on the keys, probably refocusing your eyes in the process. Do that a lot and you'll fatigue your eyes quickly. If you never do it then it's a big waste.

        The other problem with what you're suggesting is that such information is almost always on the screen anyway, so there is no point in putting it on the keyboard too.
        • For the more screen-intensive games, I can see your point. FPS's are out then. However, for RTS especially, I can see this being useful.

          Imagine a game of Starcraft where you're playing, say, the Zerg, constantly throwing unit groups together and tossing them at your enemies defenses. It could be very useful to see which keys you've assigned to your expendable zerglings, and which keys are for your Ultralisks at a glance, without having to waste time flipping through the groups and seeing that oh, I a
    • by cp.tar (871488)

      Yeah, but...

      Does it run^H^H^Hhave Linux drivers?

      If not, it will be fun to see whether open source drivers are any better than the original ones.

    • by fm6 (162816)
      So instead of squinting at a tiny thumbnail on your taskbar, you squint at a tiny thumbnail on your keyboard. Terribly useful!
  • "Gem" (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The author of this article is hereby banned from using the word "gem" ever again, except to describe a precious stone.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    check this out,
    This site can actually cope with a slashdoting pretty easily,

    Nevertheless its pretty cool to look at their stats and see the slashdotting take place:
    http://tweakers.net/stats [tweakers.net]

    Scroll down to "reviews" to see the major increase in traffic since a few minutes.
  • OLED for Monitor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by in2mind (988476) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:27AM (#16213587) Homepage
    So we have OLED for keyboard?
    What actually happened to those predictions that OLED would soon replace LCD for monitors?? Is anything happening in the mainstream?
    • OLED is just barely coming out for small-screen devices right now... devices which don't use up the lifetime of the OLEDs too quickly. Kodak had one model of camera with an OLED screen a couple of years ago, which I don't think ever made it to the US, and then I don't think there were any devices using OLEDs at all, until just now, there's finally some that are using them.

      OLED monitors would be awesome, and I think they're still going to get here eventually, but don't wait to replace your old dying CRT
      • by kahrytan (913147)
        OLED Monitor would not be like a LCD monitor. LCD monitor will be large and bulky monitor compared to a OLED one.

        OLED monitor would hang on the wall like a movie screen would.
        OLED could quite possibily add computer screens on car windshields.

        I am glad that OLED has advanced far enough where it can display clear crisp images. Early forms only had few colors possible. It doesn't do HD images but it works.
  • Breast keys (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gentlewhisper (759800)
    If you are watching porn is it possible to have a mini thumbnail of your video playback display on the keypad as well?

    This is a genuine question!
  • I don't get it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Voltas (222666) *
    Other then "gadget factor" whats the real value in this?

    This reminds me of the "Tablet PC" revolution (I baught one). Although a great piece of technology there wasn't a significant increase in productivity or features that warented the extra effort to adapt to the technology.

    A big win for any "bleeding edge" technology is if the added productivity and features out way the effort to convert from an existing platform.

    Winning Examples:
    iPod (MP3 Player)
    Mouse -> Cordless Mouse
    Touchpad
    Cell Phone OS' (When a c
    • by xtracto (837672)
      One-handed Keyboard

      I dont know to what special type of keyboard you are reffering but a) It is possible to write (fast!) with one hand in a normal keyboard (see Dvorak one handed keyboard [wikipedia.org]). I have seen someone in action with that key distribution and it is amazing.

      Tablet PC

      You defin Tablet PC as a loser, however I think there has been a lot of maket for this computers. I would like to buy one, however they are quite expensive (and I am quite poor), maybe you did not liked it, and saw it as a gadget because
    • You know - you might not be far off.

      While this is a very great concept - it MIGHT call for a lot of user interaction (depending on how much work they do behind the scenes to provide good software support). I am kind of reminded of my Philips Pronto - which is a great universal remote for my home theater unit, but doesn't get a whole lot of use, because I have yet to finish programming it. Why? Pain. I have to lay out everything, and it isn't easy. I am sure I am not the only one with this issue.

      This co
    • Other then "gadget factor" whats the real value in this?

      This reminds me of the "Tablet PC" revolution (I baught one). Although a great piece of technology there wasn't a significant increase in productivity or features that warented the extra effort to adapt to the technology.

      Why does every advance in technology require that everyone and their brother eventually use one?

      Different technologies have different uses, and should be treated as such. The Tablet PC may be cumbersome and awkward for someone who woul

  • Am I alone in reading the blurb on Slashdot and not having a clue what it was about? Please folks, a three word description for the unititated would be nice.

    Optimus was the Radio Shack speaker line at one time, so I immediately thought audio. Then I saw keyboard, then I saw three button, which sounds like a mouse. Then I saw excessive CPU usage, which doesn't sound like any keybaord OR mouse that I know of...

    At which point it seemed that there wasn't whole lot of reasons to RTFA.
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <<rodrigogirao> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:41AM (#16213769) Homepage
    Unicomp. [pckeyboard.com] The true one and only heir to the IBM Model M.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by damieng (230610) *
      I've an original Model M (keyspring), a Mattias Pro (Alps switch) and a Das Keyboard II (Cherry switch).

      The Das Keyboard II is nicer to type on than the IBM imho...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by 1gig (102295)
        Personaly I like the Das as well but I really prefer to have the keys marked so I got the Cherry G803000LPMUS-0 which is the same keyboard as the Das (gray instead of black though). They are still expensive but $67 for a good keyboard is not to bad. All the new high end keyboards or you could say quality mechanical keyboards are using the Cherry MX Liner keyswitches so why not buy from the source and save some money. The only problem is they are hard to find basicly only POS providers have them here in the
    • ZERO. totally useless for me.
    • I couldn't imagine life without my Model M (connected to my new Pentium 4) but I must admit, I would buy an OLED keyboard with buckling springs, and I'd pay good money for it too.

      The only issue with the Model M...there is no way of talking on the phone and typing discretely at the same time.
  • Dilbert tells the customer, "This is our new product, it has just one button and we push it in the factory before we ship it."
  • for NSFW keycaps!
  • by Grendel Drago (41496) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:55AM (#16213937) Homepage
    Thank you, to all the dorks who buy overpriced, half-baked, barely-functional products like this one. You fund the research and development that makes these things useful for the rest of us. We salute you.
  • It's a nice toy and all, but in my opinion, any practicality is fleeting. Here's why:

    I work with a lot of design programs every day. As such, I get tired of moving my mouse from one tool to the other and have discovered (unlike many in my office) the joy of shortcut keys. While I first needed a cheat sheet to help with the differences between my various programs, after some repitition I was able to easily remember "V" in Photoshop is "A" in Multi-Ad Creator. While an Optimus would have been ideal at firs
    • after some repitition I was able to easily remember "V" in Photoshop is "A" in Multi-Ad Creator. While an Optimus would have been ideal at first, quickly it would have been rendered useless in favor of committing keys to memory.

      I think it will work, for just that reason. By pressing ctrl, you will see all of the options, including ones you don't know about. You mentally associate that function with that particular key location, instead of finding it through trawling the menus. You'd notice a lot of new t

  • Got there and was told "De MySQL server ligt te slapen". Looks like I'll have to come back when the MySQL server decides to get up. I think it had a heavy night partying with /.ers.
  • Yay for NetworkMirror [networkmirror.com].
  • by daniel.baker (1002642) <danhq_2000.yahoo@com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:32AM (#16214457) Homepage Journal
    Dead Programmer has an informative review over here: http://www.deadprogrammer.com/optimus-mini-three-f ull-review [deadprogrammer.com]
  • With so many PC games using the keyboard for control by the player, I'm surprised that QWERTY is still the only kind that I ever see. What kind of reconfigurable "task keyboards" are gamers already using? Any with reconfig keycap displays to match reconfig commands triggered by pressing them? Any that are smarter, like learning common combos and autoconfig'ing to a single key? Any that work more advanced switching than just press/trigger (like going beyond "Caps Lock")?

    These gizmos are the most personal par
  • OLED Mouse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:47AM (#16214663) Journal
    Why not make the OLED's mouse buttons instead?

    Two OLED buttons would be just fine.

    And they should be able to make a driverless interface using the HID class and USB. It's just silly to write your own drivers when USB drivers exist on all platforms to interface your hardware with.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Why not make the OLED's mouse buttons instead?


      Because your fingers would cover them up?

      • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
        Your fingers cover up regular keys, too.

        To me, doing OLED buttons at all is kinda silly. I certainly don't look at the keyboard when I type; I haven't for years.
      • by Tim C (15259)
        Not only that, but of all the things I never look at, the buttons on my mouse are right up there at the top of the list. I look at my keyboard more often than I look at them, and I touch-type...

        Seriously, they're huge, so no problems missing them, and there's only one per finger, so no problem with getting the wrong one. What earthly use would it be to have OLEDs on them?
  • On the last page of the review there is a picture of the three buttons after being customized. On the last button it seems to say "Vrouw topless op Google Earth", which I belive means "Woman topless on Google Earth".
    How could Slashdot miss that story? THIS IS STUFF THAT MATTERS!
  • I'd put a nice big red blinking PANIC button on it. Everytime there's something I don't like, I'd smash that button really, really hard. I'd let it do a kill -9 or something.
  • by XMunkki (533952) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @11:08AM (#16214907) Homepage
    I bought one for the gadget-nerdiness-factor (about 8 months ago :). Now about a month ago they gave away the software + programming APIs. I was kinda disappointed at the spot, since this is not really a USB device. Inside, it uses an USB to serial converter. This is why the display refresh rate is kinda low. The screens themselves are 96x96 per screen, 16bit color. They tend to "flash" a little (I guess that's the OLED for ya).

    I've been programming this device for a weekends worth now. I checked the software they gave and it was ok. It does crash VERY often, though it's not the device that's causing the crashes. The USB to serial chip they use is made by Porlific and I think it's the PL-2303. Now googling for that seems to indicate prolific has had a bad history with working drivers.

    Now being the nerdy hacker type, it seems that for me it only crashes when disconnecting by software. So my solution was to create a stub program in C# that connects to the device, stays connected all the time and listens for incoming TCP connections and routes those to the device. This way the computer stays connected to the device all the time and I can restart the controlling software as often as I like. Haven't had any problems with this approach yet. Still I hope Prolific fixes their serial drivers.

    As for when it comes to the performance, I've noticed something weird. All of my software is currently in C# and has not been optimized. But when feeding the device with image data, the program that sends it to the device takes around 9%, while the program that generates the packets takes somwthing like 40%. This seems kinda weird and I do have some hope of fixing it. :)

    As for the device itself, the reviews I've read have been pretty accurate. It always makes me feel bad to press a display. And the buttons are not as "solid" as I'd like.

    But with enough work I hope to make even something good out of it. I was hoping of making an animated game, but no way of doing that with that serial adapter standing in between.
    • First of all, I'd have to say thanks for all the firsthand information!

      Secondly, it seems that currently it only supports windows, which is too bad as I could see a lot of hackers of the other OS's finding this a usefule device. Open drivers (not just a programming API) would be a nice thought too

      My primary beef with the device would be the aforementioned serial converter, which would really such on a fullsize keyboard, as well as the flicker issue. Hopefully they'll fix it up for the full-sized keyboar
  • ...why not start with one of these [thinkgeek.com]? It projects a virtual keyboard onto a flat surface, why not hack it to change the character driver? At least you're not stuck waiting for some breakthrough in manufacturing technology to get a full-sized keyboard...

    (Personally, this thing gets my vote for "gadget most likely to actually attract babes in a club". Yes, I understand actually having this category for gadgets makes it extremely unlikely that I ever will attract babes in a club, gadgets or not.)
  • In the end, it comes down to 1 thing... Computer fanatics don't look at the keyboard. They don't look away from the screen at all. If they have to look away to tell what it going on, they are missing something on-screen to do it.
  • by Tom (822)
    Interesting tech demo. Maybe they should make a 10-key version next, to corner the game market.

    I know I'd buy something that gives me the Guild Wars skill bar in a hardware version. I'm sure many other players of other MMORPGs would like to have actual keys to press that show the skills currently in the quickbar.
  • Tweakers? I'm not taking tech advice from a bunch of meth heads.

    (well, it's what I first thought)
  • Cany anyone explain to my why this is better than touch-sensitive screens that have been around for years? An LCD touch screen, lying on it's back would be cheaper and have a much better frame rate! ;)
  • I'm surprised they didn't mention this old gag [kiwassee.org]

    If it cost $20 instead of $100, I would buy one just to display those three buttons on my desktop :D

  • ... in the early versions, if ever, that is sure clear. For many applications you may want to remap the keyboard on a per application basis, which means that it would have to update the display as you change focus from one window to another. For certain multilingual applications, or for calculating with an APL interpreter using it special character set, it will need to switch labels when one of those stupid windows popups arrives and steals away the focus, or anytime you switch the active window. If the

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