|At first sight, the Optimus Maximus is a very weird keyboard - all the keys are
blank. It looks like the letters have been erased, but in actuality the letters
were never there at all.
It is a very clever idea, designed to advance keyboards.
Like it or loathe it, the fact is keyboard-based input is going to be the norm
for computer interaction for a majority of people for the foreseeable future.
For some, this causes problems. All too frequently, letters wear off of modern
keyboards. It causes physical problems when their hands cannot press the right
keys, due to size or physical deformity.
Hands up who has used overlays? Those sheets on top of a keyboard to remind
you what different buttons do, when an application overwrites them. Ok, you
can put your hands down now, we have all used them at one stage or another.
Not to mention hunted across the keyboard, looking for the keys that a given
program uses to function.
Ever been on holiday, or worked abroad, then gone to use a PC? It's a fun experience,
with keyboard layouts and character sets very different to the ones at home,
whichever country home is.
Optimus Maximus attempts to change all that. The keys are blank for a very
good reason: they are not keys at all; they are pressable display screens, each
having an independent microprocessor controlling it, embedded under each screen.
This means they are hot-swappable. Tell your keyboard you desire QWERTY, Qwerty
keys appear, in the right places. Tell it you would like QWERTZ, and a Qwertz
layout appears. Decide you would prefer Dorvak, it literally only takes the
length of a blink to change. Any language, any character set, available in an
instant, without changing keyboard.
Why have letters? Colour pictographs can easily be shown instead. Switching
between a PC and a Mac, Alt maps to Control and back again automatically. If
using a VR environment with complicated controls, map them to the extended keys
- 10 of them to the left of the main board.
If you find a layout you like, store it on a flash card, and take it with you,
automatically programming the next keyboard you encounter with your settings
- just plug and play.
As for how the keyboard is to use, surprisingly normal. The displays don't
move, so instead, to avoid wear and tear, the top of the key depresses like
a normal would. You feel it depress, but there is no click. The display shining
up through the transparent bit under your finger.