Ten Gadget Picks of Ceatec 2010

Ceatec, Japan's largest electronics show, is over for another year. We spent a week rushing around Makuhari Messe near Tokyo checking out some of the coolest, most futuristic gadgets and developments that Japan's electronics industry has to offer. Here's some of the best of what we found:

Toshiba's no-glasses 3D TV

The big star of Ceatec 2010 was a new 3D television from Toshiba. It attracted hordes of people and sometimes a queue that was 3-hours long. What's the big deal? The TV doesn't require glasses to see the illusion of depth. It's the first of its kind from a major consumer electronics manufacturer, although smaller companies have shown similar technology.

In a review we found it gave a good-looking high-definition 3D picture, but like systems that require glasses, the technology is far from perfect. (A video of the TV is available on YouTube.)

Pioneer head-up display

Pioneer provided a glimpse into the future of driving: a head-up display for drivers that hooks up to a cell phone. The prototype uses a laser to display images on a screen that would be mounted between the driver and the windscreen. The images are generated from a smartphone, which also provides up-to-date traffic information. Pioneer hopes to begin selling it in 2012 as an after-market add-on and is also talking to car manufacturers. (You can see it in action in this video.)

Fujitsu dual-screen cell phone

Looking ahead to future LTE cellular service, Fujitsu was showing off a prototype cell phone with two screens. LTE will boast data speeds several times faster than current 3G so is expected to spur services that store data online. The handset uses the two screens to help clarify when the user is working locally and when they are working with online-based information. The addition of a second screen means there's no keypad. (See Fujitsu explain the phone in this video.)

No-wires charging

If you're constantly frustrated by the need to run a cable to charge a portable gadget then this will be of interest. NTT DoCoMo was showing some prototype cell phones and batteries based on a new wireless charging standard called Qi (it's pronounced "chi"). The system replaces power bricks and cables and just requires a user place their cell phone on a charging pad. (A video demonstration can be seen on YouTube.)

TDK's flexible OLED screens

TDK attracted a constant crowd at Ceatec for its flexible OLED screens. The screens are just 0.3 millimeters thick and so can gently bend while still display images or information. They'll bring benefits even when a bend isn't required: because they are made on plastic, they're much more durable than today's glass-based screens and much more difficult to break. (See them on show in this YouTube video.)

NTT DoCoMo augmented reality demo

Imagine having a tiny screen in the corner of your eye that constantly brings you information relevant to you and your current location. NTT DoCoMo is prototyping this idea with its AR Walker, which clips onto a pair of glasses. It includes a gyro sensor that can detect which way the wearer is facing. Should they look left or right, it can identify which shops or restaurants are in that direction. When the wearer looks up it provides weather information, and when looking straight ahead it provides navigation. (Check this video to see what it looks like.)

Samsung WiMax 2 demonstration

Visitors to Ceatec had a chance to check-out a new version of WiMax that streams data at over 300Mbps. Samsung was demonstrating WiMax 2 by sending several high-definition video streams over a trial network to computers. The tests come ahead of finalization of the technology, which is due later this year. No operators have yet announced plans to launch WiMax 2 networks, but the demonstration was an impressive glance into the future of mobile data.

TransferJet gets faster

A group of big-name companies displayed the latest developments with TransferJet, a Sony-made wireless data transfer system. Toshiba was showing an SD Card TransferJet adapter that should help bring the technology to millions of SD-based digital cameras next year. Sony was showing a new TransferJet chip that provides a faster connection to a PC and so should help the system achieve its speeds of around 375Mbps. (TransferJet in action can be seen in this video.)

Mitsubishi's modular OLED screen

At last year's Ceatec we got a chance to see a prototype of Mitsubishi's modular OLED screen, and this year it was on show as a commercial product. The screen is made up of display modules that can be connected together to make a screen of any dimension. It's bright, looks great and is already on sale, but don't plan on having one in your living room. The screen is targeted at public display applications such as departure boards at railway stations and stadium screens. (See the screen for yourself in this video.)

Murata Girl robot

One of the big hits at Ceatec every year are the robots from Murata. Developed to showcase the company's sensor technology, the bicycling and unicycling robots have the ability to balance perfectly. This year Murata Girl, the unicycling 'bot, showed off these skills by cycling along a curved balance beam. It's an impressive feat for a robot and one that drew plenty of onlookers to the regular shows. (See Murata Girl and Murata Boy perform their tricks in this video.)

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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