Touch-type your imagination

Touch-type your imagination
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 12 00 AM IST

Optimus Upravlator: It features a 10.8-inch colour LCD with 12 see-through buttons on its surface.
Optimus Upravlator: It features a 10.8-inch colour LCD with 12 see-through buttons on its surface.
Updated: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 12 00 AM IST
You have 113 screen-displays, glowing with full-colour. You can see them, you can touch them. A tiny screen-display is embedded in each of the 113 keys of this astounding computer keyboard. Each key works as a stand-alone display. You can start by loading the standard Qwerty keyboard layout on these display keys. When you wish, you can auto-magically change the keys to glow with the characters of any language.
Boon for India
Optimus Upravlator: It features a 10.8-inch colour LCD with 12 see-through buttons on its surface.
How about the Devanagari or Greek script, or scientific and mathematical symbols? No problem. With one click, the keys transform into the character-set of your choice, so you can have any keyboard layout you wish. This is no doubt a boon, for example, for typists bewildered about typing in Indian scripts on Qwerty-only keyboards. You no longer have to manually paste shabby-looking stickers over Qwerty keys, or memorize the various keyboard layouts in Indian language computing.
It doesn’t just end there. You can assign icons of your favourite software to a special bunch of keys on the left of the Optimus Maximus keyboard. So you can touch-type the glowing email or the browser icon to launch those applications. Actually, any icon from any application can be assigned to any key. Want to touch-type using icons from your favourite 3D computer-game, or load all your tools and icons from Photoshop or a CAD software on the keyboard instead? Click, and it’s done. Imagine the blistering speeds and productivity you’ll gain. For those challenged with typing math formulae, functions, and fractions in spreadsheets, just assign each to keys on the keyboard instead. Software programmers and web developers can assign syntax and functions from their preferred computing or markup language. As you work and play, swapping from one set of keyboard layouts to another happens in a snap.
Thin different
The display technology is Oled (Organic Light Emitting Diodes), which does not require a backlight and thus is much thinner than traditional LCD panels, and draws much less power. Each key displays 65,536 colours, at a resolution of 48x48 pixels, on a viewable area of 0.4”x0.4”. You can also display video and animated image, as each key supports a minimum of 10 frames per second of moving images. The Maximus draws its own power from a DC adaptor, and connects to your computer over USB. Helpfully, the keyboard provides two additional USB ports. A memory-card slot allows you to store your preferred settings so you can enjoy instant gratification on powering up your system. The Maximus works only with the Apple Macintosh or with Windows-based computers, so Linux users are out of luck for the moment. A “software configurator” utility allows you to assign keys and icons with intuitive drag-and-drop simplicity.
Optimus Mini Three
Optimus Maximus: You can load the Devanagari script on this keyboard with just one click and start working.
Not content with the ground-breaking Optimus Maximus, the innovative design studio, Artlebedev, created another keyboard, the Optimus Mini Three. Described as “an auxiliary keyboard-informer”, it has three keys that display static or animated images in full-colour. Use it as a digital toolbar or a remote control. You could display constantly-updating info on the keys, such as weather reports, exchange rates or mail notifications, while using your computer for other regular tasks. All it needs is a free USB port and its “software configurator” installed on your Mac or Windows-based computer. It can work with your regular keyboard or daisy-chain it to your Optimus Maximus for added impact.
The website has a growing collection of photos and anecdotes of people using the Mini Three for imaginative and rather innovative purposes. Some have connected the device to audio equipment, room climate-control systems, or projectors. I quite like the photo of the Mini Three used for entertaining a pet cat. Independent software developers are pitching in by submitting plug-ins and solutions on the site. An “OpenOptimus” project is currently developing a generic software driver to make it work with Linux-based computers as well.
With each passing day, the buzz around the Optimus keyboards keeps growing. Discover the latest on the official blog at “Life and Incredible Adventures of Optimus Keyboards” at http://community. livejournal.com/optimus_project/ Also, plug into the discussion board and forums at www.everythingoptimus.com
Availability
Optimus Maximus: Approximately $1,877.43 (around Rs90,060). For that kind of whopping price, consider adding the optional K-lock that physically tethers the keyboard to avoid theft.
Optimus Mini Three: Approximately $183.48.
From www.artlebedev.com via their online shop, or from their growing list of retail outlets in the US and Europe. So far, the Artlebedev design studio has no authorized dealer or distributor for India.
Watch out for our story on “Alternate keyboards” next Wednesday
Looking Ahead
The creative geniuses at artlebedev.com are working on several more Optimus keyboards and displays:
OPTIMUS UPRAVLATOR
A completely new kind of input device aimed at media professionals. It features a 10.8 inch colour LCD with 12 see-through buttons occupying its surface. Each of them has five contact points—centre, top, bottom, left and right—freely assignable to user interface elements in the software of your choice.
OPTIMUS TACTUS
Purely conceptual at this moment, it is a one-sensor, full-colour display keyboard. Fascinatingly, it has no physical keys at all, which implies that there are no restrictions on the shape and size of what you wish to display on it. Think of it as a full-colour touch-sensitive monitor that looks like a keyboard.
OPTIMUS POPULARIS
Shorter than the Maximus, it will not use Oled screens, is based on a different principle, and will be priced below $1,000. No more details available, except images of 3D prototypes and initial mock-ups.
OPTIMUS PULTIUS
A 15-key addition to any keyboard. To be used with the Maximus or with any other non-display keyboard. It uses the same principles as Maximus. Expect shipments by next year.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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CONNECT
Know
If you are a Wii gaming fan, this one is for you. The Rumble Blaster ($29.99, around Rs1,420) turns your entire Wii controller into a two-handed gun system with realistic rumble action. The kit snaps on to the Wii’s remote control and “nunchuck” control and can be used separately as two pistols or together as a rifle-like combination. An LED lights up when you fire, and the controller is compatible with most Wii shooting games. In fact, because the kit allows you to access most of the controller buttons when connected, it is compatible with almost any game that involves running and gunning down ghouls, zombies or enemy ninjas.
©2008 The New York Times
Listen
The iPod isn’t just a music player—it’s a new storage medium. GoStudio from Belkin, for example, can record stereo audio directly to an iPod Classic, Nano or Video just as if the iPod were a memory card or thumb drive. The $120 device has two built-in microphones, a mono speaker and four external microphone inputs. When you insert an iPod, a recording menu appears. You can then record live audio as a voice memo, which can then be used in iTunes or any other audio-playback or editing program. The GoStudio has a few professional features, including built-in gain and recording-level controls, as well as monitor controls for listening to what is being recorded live.
©2008 The New York Times
Buy
Of course the old microscope kit would get an upgrade. What used to be the prize of any science-obsessed schoolchild is now a more compact, digitally enabled magnifier. The VMS-001 USB-powered microscope by Veho lets you see an object 20-200 times larger. It comes with an internal white LED to better help you home in on the details and software (which requires Microsoft Windows) so you can convert the images into photos and videos for viewing on your desktop. The microscope also sits on a stand so you can twist and turn the VMS-001 for better angles. The microscope ($100) is available for purchase on Firebox.com (firebox.com/product/2161/USB-Microscope). Mitochondria, here we come.
©2008 The New York Times
Do
Did you know that you can extract content from a corrupted Microsoft Word 2003 file that won’t open? Most recent versions of the program — including those for the Macintosh — come with a conversion utility called “Recover Text From Any File”. To use it, start Word, go to the File menu and choose the Open option. In the resulting box, go to the “Files of Type” drop-down menu and select “Recover Text from Any File” (in Word 2008 for the Mac, this item is under the Enable drop-down menu in the Open box). Navigate through the hard drive to the damaged file, select it and let Word start working.
©2008 The New York Times
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First Published: Fri, Nov 28 2008. 12 00 AM IST