Japan CEATEC: Ultra high-def TVs, an INSECT from Toyota, and smarter homes

The country's largest electronics show begins this week outside of Tokyo, featuring consumer, mobile and now car technology

At the CEATEC show that opens in Japan this week, the country's electronics manufacturers will show a host of products that are probably a few years from catching on, as well as a few design concepts that will need a bit longer than that.

A main theme will be the new generation of high-definition TV sets that are starting to come to market, though there is still little content that takes advantage of their resolution, while several companies will show their concept for "smart homes," with net-savvy appliances and careful power management.

Gadget lovers will be able to get their fix with a host of not-quite-ready-for-market products, including face-capturing eye glasses from operator NTT DoCoMo and a new smart car concept from Toyota.

In TVs, big names like Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba will show TVs that have four and eight times the resolution of today's HD sets. TV makers appear to be shifting away from years of emphasis on 3D, a technology that has failed to capture the imagination of consumers, even as an value-added offering.

"TV makers weren't able to use 3D to boost the prices of their sets, so it has just become a drag on their profits," said Keita Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities.

"'4K' technologies have much more appeal, though at current prices just for the wealthy."

Sony and Toshiba will show their new "4K" sets at CEATEC, named after their nearly 4,000-pixel horizontal resolution. The sets typically display at 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels, versus the 1,920 by 1,080 resolution for HD.

Sony has said its 84-inch version will launch this year worldwide, and will go on sale in Japan from Nov. 23 for 1.68 million yen (US$20,000). Toshiba will launch three new models to go on sale by spring of next year; it currently offers a 55-inch version for 750,000 yen.

Panasonic said it will model an 8K model, while Sharp will show a new concept TV that uses an impressive technology called ICC (Integrated Cognitive Creation), which it says "reproduces the cognitive process by which the human brain interprets light stimuli."

Panasonic will also continue to push its new line of smart appliances, many of which can interact with smartphones. These include an air conditioner that can be controlled remotely, a washing machine that can download different laundry settings, and a portable oven with touch-card technology that can be used to send menu settings.

Carmaker Toyota will have a full booth for the first time at this year's show, and has announced it will model a single-seater concept car it is calling the "Smart INSECT" (Information Network Social Electric City Transporter), which has many features of today's smart phones including motion detection, voice recognition and its own cloud-based services.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest operator, will demonstrate a number of mobile concepts, including a tablet that tracks the movements of its users' eyes, and a camera-laden pair of eyeglasses that continuously scan the wearer's face to reproduce their facial expressions more accurately in video chat.

Chinese manufacturer Huawei has said it will be at the show for the first time, modeling its phones and tablets. However, the relationship between Japan and China have soured in recent weeks over a set of disputed islands, with mass anti-Japan protests occurring in China and Chinese rioters smashing Japanese factories.

CEATEC, whose roots run back to 1964, has faded a bit in recent years as Japanese manufacturers focus on more globally oriented shows such as last month's IFA in Germany. CEATEC runs from Tuesday to Saturday in Makuhari, just outside of Tokyo.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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