Slideshow

Highlights from CEATEC 2008

Sights and sounds from Japan's cutting-edge IT and electronics comprehensive exhibition

  • Pioneer debuted a 400GB Blu-ray Disc and boasts about a 500GB with 20 layers. Based on research at its Tokyo headquarters, specifications have been drafted for an incredibly capacious 500GB BD.

  • One of the stars of Ceatec 2008 is almost certain to be Seiko-chan, a unicycling robot from Japan's Murata Manufacturing. A previous robot, Murata Boy, impressed crowds of attendees at Ceatec 2006 with its ability to cycle while maintaining perfect balance on two wheels. At this year's show, the company will unveil to the public a unicycling robot that is intended to show off the company's precision components and sensors.

  • Walk along the halls of the Ceatec electronics show here in Japan and you're likely to see all manner of gadgets and gizmos, but few sights might startle you more than Ichiro Kasai. Kasai, a manager at Konica Minolta's frontier business incubation department, is wearing a futuristic headset that looks like something you might find in a science-fiction movie. It's actually the latest prototype of his wearable communicator that can send and receive video and audio over a Wi-Fi network. The device is an update to a prototype model that's been shown at Ceatec under glass for the past couple of years. The panel that sits in front of Kasai's right eye is a see-through display. It projects a video image being transmitted to the device to a window in his field of vision. Just above this is a camera that sends video images of whatever he is looking at. A mic and earphone add two-way audio communications.

  • The show, now in its ninth year, is expected to attract around 210,000 visitors over its five-day run at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, just east of Tokyo. This year more than 500 companies from 16 nations will be in attendance.

  • How do electronic tags and wearable readers help get the job done? If an engineer were to make a mistake operating city gas equipment, the results might be disastrous. This is why various measures are taken to ensure proper handling and repair. But even the most experienced engineer can make mistakes. Enter the Smart Assistant System. With this system, an electronic tag is embedded in the equipment. A wearable reader in the engineer's uniform then allows remote assistance and monitoring to prevent mistakes. And if tags were embedded in medicine cabinets in a pharmacy, rudimentary mistakes could be prevented during medicine preparation. At home, if you followed cooking preparations stored, for example, in tags in your ingredients box, you could prepare dishes like a professional chef.

  • A unicycling robot, prototype fuel cells and a TV that doesn't need a stand are just some of what visitors to this week's CEATEC electronics fair in Japan will find. Let's take a look at some highlights from the big show.

  • Evans Peak will support WiMAX that uses spectrum from 2.3GHz to 2.7GHz and 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz, according to a list of specifications provided by Intel. By comparison, Echo Peak modules only support spectrum from 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz. Evans Peak adds support for Bluetooth 2.1 and GPS in the same module. It also supports 802.11 wireless networking, which is already available with the Echo Peak module family.

  • Epson Toyocom's gyro sensor demonstration: Gyro-sensor orientation controlled hovercraft with an altitude control function.

  • Look Ma, no keys! Mobile phones and cars are unusual driving partners but a new phone from Sharp may actually become a driver's best friend. The phone is the first with a built-in electronic car key. It's compatible with Nissan's "intelligent key" function, which works with 950,000 Nissan vehicles across various model lines, and was developed by the auto maker with Sharp and Japanese cellular carrier NTT DoCoMo.

  • Nintendo is refreshing its two-year old DS Lite handheld device with a new version that's thinner, has dual-digital cameras and will be out before the end of the year -- at least in Japan. The DS-i looks similar to the current DS Lite and is a little thinner because it doesn't have a slot for GameBoy Advance cartridges. The device's two screens are slightly larger at 3.25-inches instead of 3-inches and two digital cameras have been added. The outer camera has a 3-megapixel resolution and pictures can be stored on an SD Card for transfer to the company's Wii or a computer. It will launch in Japan on November 1 and will cost US$179.

  • Nissan Motor engineers have developed a collision-avoidance system that draws inspiration from the way a bee flies and will demonstrate it next week built into a micro robotic car. The BR23C (Biomimetic car robot drive) system was developed with The University of Tokyo and is part of Nissan's safety project, which has as its goal to halve the number of fatalities or serious injuries in accidents involving its vehicles between 1995 and 2015.

  • TDK promoted a partly DC-powered "eco home," anticipating a combination of clean energies, such as solar and wind power, and conventional commercial electricity. The TDK mock-up showed a flow of energy from multiple energy sources not only to the home but throughout the home, with Home Energy Management System installed inside the home.

  • A visitor operates a single-seat linear motor car during a test ride. The compact vehicle, which floats 2 or 3 centimeters by magnetic power, is exhibited by electronic components manufacturer Tyco Electronics that supplies products as IC sockets, touch panels, LED light sockets and connectors to make linear motor cars.

  • ALPS showcases their magnetic and UV sensors including the world's smallest class, piezoresistive-type pressure sensor (absolute pressure detection).

  • Submarine cable

  • The Sony OLED is an emerging flat-panel display technology that uses an organic material in the pixels that emits its own light, so a backlight isn't needed. That helps make the displays thinner and much less power-hungry. OLED screens also handle fast-moving images better and offer richer color reproduction than current LCDs (liquid crystal displays) and PDPs (plasma display panels).

  • A truly odd-ball item at Ceatec: A mobile phone application lets you see through walls. Real Space's "See-through Mobile" software is only a prototype (developed by KDDI's R&D laboratory and Tokyo University). The makers claim that it uses six different sensors to judge its surroundings, including those on the other side of a wall.

  • Toshiba showed off a 2.5-inch version of the 256G-byte SSD at the Ceatec exhibition. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed the drives will be commercially available, but pricing was not immediately available. Based on multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory chips and designed for laptops, the 256G-byte SSD uses a 3G bps (bits per second) SATA-2 interface. The drive can read up to 120M bytes of data per second and writes up to 70M bytes per second, Toshiba said.

  • Television at 16 times the resolution of today's HDTV is inching ever closer -- and now it's in colour. A recently-developed 33-megapixel image sensor has helped Japanese public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) take the step from black and white in its Super Hi-Vision system.

  • Pioneer Corporation showcases its 3D floating vision technology.

  • High Tech Computer, the world's largest maker of smartphones that use Microsoft Windows Mobile, said earlier this year that its Touch Diamond handset has already been launched by 50 operators in 30 countries around the world. The company also plans to introduce four or five more Diamond family products.

  • Murata's prototype thermoelectric device generates up to 38 milliwats of power per square centimeter at 360 degrees Celsius. The thermoelectric device generates electricity when two ceramic semiconductors are subjected to different temperatures. When the semiconductors are connected, the temperature gradient produces a slight electric current.

  • The Sharp XS-series TVs are 23 millimeters deep, thanks to a new LED (light-emitting diode) backlight and offer a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. In comparison Sharp's thinnest TV to date, the X-series launched earlier this year, which is 34mm at its thinnest point and has a contrast ratio of 200,000:1, the new sets are thinner and offer a picture that should appear better to most users. But this thinness comes with a price tag -- The 65-inch model will cost US$12,225 and the 52-inch model will cost around US$9,261.

  • Intel's next-generation WiMAX module, called Evans Peak, is on display at this week's Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan. Due to hit the market as part of the Moorestown chip platform next year, Evans Peak will support more WiMAX profiles than Intel's current chipset and add support for Bluetooth and GPS

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