At Ceatec, Intel pitches among Japanese heavyweights

The US chipmaker has a booth at the electronics show for the first time, and aims for relevance beyond PCs and servers.

In a corner of the sprawling exhibition hall of Ceatec, the annual electronics show running this week in Japan, this booth is packed with a varied display of technology -- a cyborg arm that boosts biceps strength, a futuristic classroom with touchscreens in the desks, and a digital bulletin board for households that tracks family members through GPS.

This is Intel's booth, the first time the chip giant has had a dedicated presence at the show. While one corner is dedicated to its ongoing push into super-slim, lightweight laptops called ultrabooks, it is clear the company wants to demonstrate it supplies processors for more than servers and computers.

"The goal is to get more devices out there," said David Sidd, a senior technical marketing engineer at Intel.

Sidd is in front of a display at the booth, which has an Acer desktop, a Toshiba laptop, a Samsung tablet and an HTC smartphone. The devices are all linked to a "Family Wall," a demo that tracks family members on a map and allows them to post messages through a variety of wired devices.

While many companies are trying to own the digital glue for connecting such devices, he notes that Intel hardware is something they all share, as the company makes, or will soon make, chips for all the different device categories. The company is pushing its "Compute Continuum," a hardware and software platform meant to allow manufacturers to easily allow their devices to interconnect.

In another corner of the booth, a display from Japan's Cyberdyne allows attendees to strap themselves into a robotic arm and lift a 9-kilogram (20-pound) platform. Some attendees struggled to lift the weight unassisted, but once powered up could do so with their fingertips. The company also makes a full exoskeleton suit, which uses Intel chips in its controllers.

"Obviously most of our income comes from servers and computers, but we want to expand into health and education," said Intel spokesman Yoshimitsu Araki.

Next to the robots are a few school desks with touch monitors installed. On display is a new system that will go live at small school in Kyoto, in southwest Japan, next year, where students use USB (universal serial bus) sticks with unique IDs to prompt their computerized desks to download personalized materials from servers in the cloud.

At the booming displays of the giant Japanese manufacturers at Ceatec, it is abundantly clear that traditional computers are giving way to tablets, smartphones and other networked appliances. For the first time at the yearly trade show, Intel is making its pitch for continued relevance.

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