I ran across this little gem on digg, and it’s one of those things ideas you think of but never act on, then kick yourself for later. Years ago, I had the idea of putting small LCD screens inside each key on a keyboard so that when you hold down a modifier key, such as control or option (alt), the entire keyboard pattern changes to show you what symbols are revealed. It’s everything the ridiculous Windows Alt-key combinations could ever hope to be, and what the Mac key combos could have been if the technology was available. Several years ago, though, I had neither the skills nor the technology to create such a keyboard, much less the inclination to patent the idea. Fast forward to today and you’ll find the Optimus keyboard — a brilliantly executed piece of engineering, combing sleek Apple-like style with low-power Organic LED screens in each key. Not only can the tiny displays change to show character mappings, they can also show color graphics such as icons or representations of actions, handy for Photoshop or other such applications. Designed by Art Lebedev (you may know them for their clever and popular bar code posters), the Optimus keyboard is not yet in production. However, I know this much: I want one. See some more photos of it on their site.
Update: Read an interview with the creators.