Electronics Show Ceatec Displays Connected Future

Electronics show CEATEC displays connected future

Asia's largest electronics and information technology convention began Tuesday near Tokyo, with companies showing off cutting-edge devices and services to demonstrate their vision of a future where many aspects of life are connected via networks.

Regulars at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, or CEATEC, such as Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp. hosted large booths with lavish displays, while two of Japan's biggest banking groups are also participating.

Sharp drew a sizeable crowd with its flagship 70-inch television featuring an ultra high-definition 8K liquid crystal display. The product goes on sale this month in China and in December in Japan and is expected to carry a price tag of about 1 million yen ($8,880).

The technology is the electronics maker's answer to organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, TVs being touted by rivals as the next-generation alternative to conventional LCDs. The 8K screens are capable of four times the resolution of 4K and 16 times that of full high definition, or 2K.

Sharp also announced a cheaper version of the RoBoHon, a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence that doubles as a smartphone. The 138,000 yen model can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi but does away with cellular connectivity for those who already own a phone.

Panasonic's booth showcases how new in-home technology can help care for aging family members or educate children.

The electronics maker is developing an air conditioning unit with an attached sensor that tracks whether an elderly person is sleeping well at night, allowing care workers to pay them a visit if a problem becomes apparent. Panasonic hopes the system will help distant family members stay in touch as Japan's population gets rapidly older.

Also on display is Cocotto, a white ball-shaped robot that helps develop infants' social skills by rolling around and talking.

A total of 667 companies and organizations from Japan and 22 other countries and regions have exhibits at the event being held in Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture through Friday, up from 648 exhibitors last year. Organizers expect the number of visitors to reach 160,000.

Component maker Omron Corp. brought its table tennis-playing robot Forpheus to CEATEC for the fourth straight year, this time with improvements such as the ability to serve the ball using an additional articulated arm and the capacity to better react to hard-hit shots.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics singles bronze medalist Jun Mizutani squared off against the machine in a press event the previous day, playing a more than 65-shot rally before he moved in for the kill. The robot managed, barely, to return the ball.

"I didn't actually think it would hit the ball back," Mizutani said with a smile.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Japan's second-biggest banking group by revenue, is participating at CEATEC for the first time, showing off advancements in financial technology, or fintech, such as a system created with NEC Corp. that allows users to sign off on credit card purchases by simply looking into a camera.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the No. 1 banking group, joined the event for the second straight year, with an area where visitors can use its cryptocurrency, the MUFG coin.

Despite the notable absence of big names such as Sony Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., and LG Electronics Inc., CEATEC organizers said nearly half of this year's exhibitors are newcomers, showing that the event was evolving to reflect the spread of network connectivity.

"Starting last year, CEATEC transformed from a showcase of information technology and electronics to an exhibition of cyber-physical systems and internet of things," Panasonic Chairman Shusaku Nagae said in a keynote speech.

"We are actively seeking out partnerships with other industries to discover new applications for IoT," he said.