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Preview: Ceatec will be a feast of gizmos and gadgets

Tradeshow to attract 210,000 visitors, 500 companies

A unicycling robot, prototype fuel cells and a TV that doesn't need a stand are just some of what visitors to next week's Ceatec electronics fair in Japan will find when the doors open on Tuesday morning.

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.

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.

A first-time exhibitor at Ceatec, Nissan Motor, will demonstrate a new mobile phone developed with Sharp that doubles as car key. Nissan already offers a key-less entry system in some of its vehicles and the phone, which will be available next year, packs the same technology.

Nissan will also show a robotic micro-car that takes inspiration from the bee's ability to fly almost anywhere and never hit a thing. The car was developed by Nissan engineers who are researching systems that could one day make it into real cars and prevent collisions altogether.

Toshiba is promising a range of prototypes including its latest direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) model and models of its super-charge battery (SCiB) that is said to offer better battery life, up to 6,000 recharges and a charge to 90 percent in just 10 minutes.

The company also says it will show a new concept wall TV that "needs no stand, no wall-mounting, and that can just be leant against a wall".

The second day of the show will make an important day in the history of Panasonic. The company, officially named Matsushita Electric Industrial after its founder, Konosuke Matsushita, will officially change its name to Panasonic from Tuesday. While the company has been known by that brand name for years overseas, in Japan and some markets it has also used the National brand name for home electrical items. In particular the dropping of the founder's name marks an important moment for the company.

At Ceatec Panasonic promises a 3D (three-dimension) full-HD plasma home theater system that combines its 103-inch plasma TV with Blu-ray Disc.

The show will also bring a chance to see, for the first time, the 400G-byte Blu-ray Disc prototype developed by Japan's Pioneer. The high-capacity disc was announced earlier this year but has yet to be demonstrated in public by the company.

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