October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

One of the biggest draws was Murata Manufacturing's unicycling robot, but robots from Nissan also made headlines. There were lots of thin TVs too, but it seems like I've spent so much time looking at ever-slimmer TVs recently I'm going to leave those out of this month's column!

Something interesting was the Au Box, a sort of set-top box that brings together broadband content and funnels it to a mobile phone or TV.

Away from Ceatec there were a couple of interesting digital still cameras to add to those I brought you last month plus, causing some excitement among gamers, a renewal of the best-selling DS Lite from Nintendo.

Would you believe people began auctioning reservation tickets for the DSi, as the new model is called, fewer than 24 hours after its announcement? That's about a month before it goes on sale.

NEXT PAGE: Murata Seiko-chan robot

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Murata Seiko-chan robot

Murata has improved on its Murata Boy bicycling robot by coming up with a model that can unicycle. Inside the robot's body are two gyroscopes. One helps keep the robot from falling sideways and the second does the same job with forwards and backwards movement.

An ultrasonic sensor helps the robot maintain a distance from objects in its path and a Bluetooth module handles communications. It's also fitted with a camera that sends live video.

Like Murata Boy, Seiko was developed by the company as a platform to show off the company's components and isn't destined to become a product.

Murata

NEXT PAGE: Spurs Engine video cards

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Spurs Engine video cards

The first add-in video cards for PCs based on Toshiba's SpursEngine video chip are out this month.

The SpursEngine is based on the same Cell processor architecture as the chip used in the PlayStation 3 console and is designed to process HD (high-definition) video.

Leadtek and Thomson both have cards coming to market. Leadtek's card will arrive later this month, and will cost around ¥30,000. Thomson's cards will arrive in November, and are expected to cost from ¥40,000 to ¥50,000. SpursEngine is capable of encoding or decoding HD video thanks to hardware MPEG2 and H.264 codecs and can upscale standard-definition video to HD on the fly, without tying up the computer's microprocessor.

Spurs Engine

NEXT PAGE: KDDI Au Box

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

KDDI Au Box

While today's mobile phones offer a wide range of multimedia functions, it's sometimes difficult for users to make the most of everything the handsets offer.

Japanese mobile carrier Au is hoping to bridge this gap with its Au Box, a device that allows users to easily gather and enjoy music and video content from CDs, video cameras, TV's and the internet and get them all in their mobile phones.

At its simplest level it can be used to rip music from a CD to a mobile phone and with a broadband connection users can also connect to Au's music download service and grab songs over the speedier broadband line rather than through their mobile phones.

The Au Box also allows users to surf the internet and watch videos on demand from Au's Lismo video store using their televisions. This function is believed to benefit Japanese youngsters, most of whom do not own computers so access the internet solely through their mobile phones.

Au Box

NEXT PAGE: Nintendo DSi

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Nintendo DSi

Nintendo is refreshing its two-year old DS Lite handheld device with a new version that's thinner, has dual-digital cameras and will be out before the end of the year - at least in Japan.

The DS-i looks similar to the current DS Lite and is a little thinner because it doesn't have a slot for GameBoy Advance cartridges. The device's two screens are slightly larger at 3.25in instead of 3in and two digital cameras have been added.

The outer camera has a 300,000-pixel resolution and pictures can be stored on an SD Card for transfer to the company's Wii or a computer. It will launch in Japan on November 1 and will cost ¥18,900.

That's slightly more expensive than the current DS Lite, which costs ¥16,800. It will reach the US and Europe in 2009. Following in the steps of its Wii console and competing devices Nintendo will launch an online applications store for the DS-i.

Video: Nintendo DSi coming next year

Nintendo DSi UK launch date revealed

Nintendo DSi

NEXT PAGE: Casio Exilim EX-FH20

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Casio Exilim EX-FH20

Casio's EX-FH20 is an update on the F1 that was launched earlier this year. It has a 9Mp resolution and 20x optical zoom. Like the F1, the new camera can take super slow-motion video and perform a host of neat tricks thanks to a burst shooting mode.

For example, the camera can be set to take up to 40 images at 7Mp resolution per second, which means you can get it to record a series of pictures either side of the shutter button being pressed. That means that if you miss a perfect picture moment, the camera will likely still capture it thanks to these extra pictures.

The fast shutter also allows video to be recorded at up to 1,000 frames per second and then achieve a super-slow motion effect when played back at the normal 30 frames per second. It will launch in the US and Europe in October and will cost around £350.

Casio Exilim EX-FH20

NEXT PAGE: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Canon has updated its three-year-old EOS 5D digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a new model, the EOS 5D Mark II, that features the ability to record HD video. And it's not just any high-def video but 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels video.

That beats out Nikon's D90, which only manages 1,280 pixel by 720 pixel. Behind the lens sits a full-frame 21.1Mp sensor. A full-frame sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame and is about double the size of the sensors used in most other digital cameras with interchangeable lenses.

The EOS 5D Mark II will hit stores in late November in Japan and the US, where it will cost $2,699. The camera packaged with a 24-105 millimeter lens will cost $3,499. European launch plans have not been announced.

NEXT PAGE: Sony PRS-700 E-book Reader

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

Sony PRS-700 E-book Reader

Sony is introducing a second electronic book reader to its range. The PRS-700 features a similar 6in electronic paper display to that used in the PRS-505 that's currently on sale but new is a touch panel and a reading light.

The touch panel means users will be able to turn pages on-screen and also search through e-books by using an onscreen keyboard and highlight passages using a stylus.

The light will aid reading in dark environments. It can store about 350 e-books in its internal memory and more can be kept in Memory Stick or SD Card media. Sony says the battery supports up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading. It's compatible with e-book formats including Sony's BBeB (Broadband electronic book), Microsoft Word documents, Adobe PDF and the International Digital Publishing Forum's XML-based EPUB format.

It will be available from November and will cost $400, which is $100 more than the PRS-505 model that will remain on sale. Launch plans for areas outside of the US were not disclosed.

Sony Reader

NEXT PAGE: Toshiba Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

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October 2008 saw Japan's biggest electronics show: Ceatec. More than 196,000 visitors to Ceatec got a chance to see the best of the Japanese electronics industry, including some exciting prototypes of devices that are still a long way from hitting the market.

R&D: Toshiba Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

In the next six months we should see Toshiba's first DMFC (direct-methanol fuel-cell). The company won't say what form it will take but it should be out sometime before the end of March. DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air.

The only by-products are a small amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide, so DMFCs are often seen as a greener source of energy than traditional batteries. Another advantage is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds.

We got a clue about the possible device at Ceatec when Toshiba showed a cell phone based on a fuel cell. The fuel cell was integrated into the clamshell phone under the keypad and made the handset a little thicker, although not considerably. Watch this space for details of the DMFC when it's announced!

Toshiba DMFC

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(Additional reporting by Sumner Lemon and Chiara Castañeda)