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Super HD TVs and smartphone cars turn heads at Japan tech expo

posted 2 Oct 2012, 08:25 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Oct 2012, 08:26 ]

Cars controlled by smartphone and a new wave of '4K' super high definition televisions are turning heads at this year's CEATEC technology show in Tokyo. The show is Asia's largest, attracting Japan's industry giants and tens of thousands of visitors looking for the next big thing.


TOKYO, JAPAN (OCTOBER 2, 2012) (REUTERS) - Forget the accelerator pedal - now you can hit the road at the tap of a smartphone. At least that's the future as envisoned by two Japanese car industry giants who unveiled their plans on Tuesday (October 2) at this year's CEATEC expo.

From Toyota, comes the "Information Network Social Electric City Transporter" -- or INSECT for short. It's a single-seat concept car designed to interact with smartphones, featuring motion detection technology instead of lock and key for entry, and links to the driver's smartphone to power the car by voice recognition.

Using Toyota's own cloud-based system, drivers can also connect to home appliances from their seat, turning the heating on and off or starting a washing machine, simply by issueing voice instructions.

While Toyota says the INSECT will probably not be on the road in reality any time soon, designers estimate parts of the car's technology should be rolled out over the next two years.

For Toyota's head of R&D, it's the beginning of a far bigger dream.

"By altering the technology inside cars, I believe we can create new and useful ways of interacting with transport. We can build cars that become like a pet, or even take on the role of a friend. That's the sort of world we are trying to create," said Shigeki Tomoyama, head of R&D at Toyota.

But Japanese auto rival Nissan says it has even more to offer. Their prototype parks itself automatically, without the need for a driver behind the wheel.

Onboard 360-degree cameras - and a connection to mapping through yet another cloud system - allows the car to navigate itself to a parking bay nearby.

But perhaps more useful, is a smartphone application that allows drivers to check in on their car remotely, and even set off the car alarm.

"The car operates using a cloud based system that sends data from local maps and analyses what the onboard camera is detecting nearby. It then uses that information to drive - for the moment that's about where it ends. It can't just drive about anywhere automatically," Nissan manager Youichi Kishimoto said.

In televisions, the theme of this year's show is super-high-definition. On display from makers like Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic is a new generation of '4K' TVs, with a screen resolution about four times the current range of full HD displays.

While they don't come cheap - Sony's 84-inch model is slated to hit the market at nearly $US20,000 next month - Toshiba's lead designer for 4K televisions says its the way of the future.

"When HD televisions get above 50 inches, you start to see the image quality deteriorate and we've started to see people wanting more precise detail. So that's where 4K comes in - people can enjoy high quality broadcasts and Blue Ray in all their glory, with no need for any modification. Then of course there's more and more discussion about moving general TV towards 4K quality. If you want to be prepared for that, 4K's a must," Tatsuhiro Nishioka said.

But that's doesn't seem to be enough for some. Now Panasonic says it is working on '8K' plasma displays that set the bar even higher, boosting that resolution by yet another four times.

CEATAC, Asia's largest technology trade show, runs until October 6.