Japan's Consumer Electronics Show
Oct. 8, 2012
by Mark Ollig

You usually see a column when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place in this country, so yours truly thought it would be interesting to check out another country’s version of it.

The Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) show took place last week in the Makuhari Messe convention center, near Tokyo, Japan.

CEATEC is Asia’s largest public showcase demonstrating new technology.

The first CEATEC took place in 2000, and featured exhibits displaying digital devices for use in industry, business, and home.

This year’s CEATEC exhibition theme was called Smart Innovation – Creating a prosperous lifestyle and society.

More than 600 companies attended the event; displaying their latest high-tech gadgets and technologies to the masses.

CEATEC provided visitors access to these new, cutting-edge products, systems, and software, and allowed them to directly use and experience how communications, information, and imaging technologies have converged with each other.

To be sure, there were plenty of robots to be found, in addition to the many demonstrations.

Some of CEATEC’s Smart Innovation demonstrations included how laundry machines, air conditioners, security cameras, and other home appliances could be controlled by using a smartphone or tablet-like computing devices.

Panasonic demonstrated how washing machines, cooking devices, blood pressure monitors, and bathroom scales, could be connected to the Internet, so they could be remotely monitored and controlled.

Carmaker Toyota demonstrated its new concept car, called the Smart INSECT (Information Network Social Electric City Transporter).

The car is painted red and black, and has dual “gull wing doors” which open high into the air, giving it the appearance of a winged insect.

This small, electric car (which can be charged using a standard household outlet) is a single-seat, single-person vehicle.

The test vehicle has built-in motion sensors, voice recognition, and something called “behavior prediction software” which, according to Toyota, will be needed for “the future generation of communications-linked systems.”

As the driver approaches the vehicle, motion sensors using facial-recognition technology can greet him with a flash of the car lights or a verbal “Hello.”

These same intelligent sensors can detect the driver’s hand reaching for the car door – and automatically open it for him.

From the driver’s smartphone, one can adjust the car’s air-conditioning and lock the doors.

This prototype city vehicle has a top speed of 37 mph.

DOCOMO, is a Japanese company which provides mobile, data, and multimedia services. They presented several high-tech exhibits.

One of these exhibits included the Shabette Robot. Shabette is a small, in-house robot which acts as an intelligent personal assistant. Shabette talks, recognizes human voices, and is designed to provide interactive assistance.

Shabette’s no Rosie, but it is one step closer to the realization of folks having a helpful, futuristic household robot like the one from the Saturday morning cartoon, “The Jetson’s.”

You can watch a short video clip of the Shabette Robot at http://bit.ly/UdDZxt.

DOCOMO also presented a concept communications device that is worn like a pair of eyeglasses.

These high-tech glasses will be used for hands-free videophone communication.

Images taken by the multiple, ultra-wide-angle cameras built into the glasses will cause the person wearing them to feel as if they are right in front of the videophone user they are talking to.

Another presentation by DOCOMO was of technology called ibeam. With ibeam, a person reading an electronic book on a computing tablet-device will be able to turn pages by the use of eye movements alone.

The eye-tracking technology in ibeam will automatically turn pages, and scroll web pages by following the individual user’s eye movements.

You can see a demonstration of ibeam at http://bit.ly/SynYPT.

I watched a video demonstration taken at CEATEC of a person wearing a futuristic-looking, upper-body robotic skeletal aluminum frame having inflatable, rubberized arm “muscles” powered with pressurized air.

Without pressuring the artificial muscles in the robotic frame, the demonstrator could hold three sacks of rice weighing 66 pounds on his outstretched arms.

With the artificial muscles in the robotic skeletal frame pressurized, the demonstrator was able to easily hold an additional two sacks of rice, for a total of 110 pounds.

Artificial muscle support was also being provided to the demonstrator’s back, shoulders, and elbows.

Another person testing the robotic frame outfit said while his arms felt fine with the extra sacks of rice he was holding, he could feel the additional stress of the weight in his legs, which did not have any artificial muscles supporting them.

Weighing almost 20 pounds, this pneumatically (air powered) robotic skeletal frame appeared to be easily worn by the demonstrators without restricting their movements.

The Koba Lab from the Tokyo University of Science provided the artificially-muscled robotic outfit being demonstrated.

A video of the demonstration can be seen at http://bit.ly/SDuYag.

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