Screenshot image shows a page introducing companies at the virtual Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, or CEATEC, on Oct. 20, 2020. (Kyodo)

Japan's annual electronics and information technology show kicked off online Tuesday with a focus on cutting-edge technologies and solutions designed to help people ride out the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, or CEATEC, is scheduled to be held virtually through Friday due to the virus outbreak after being held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, near Tokyo, for the past 20 years.

Ironically, the volume of visitors caused temporary access issues for the exhibition's website after the opening ceremony, prompting organizers to limit the number of new arrivals to stabilize the site.

"You can experience the exhibition from anywhere at any time because it's totally online," Kiyoshi Shikano, the executive producer of the show, said Monday in an online press conference.

Sharp Corp. is showcasing transparent screens that function not only as counter partitions between staff and customers in shops or medical institutions but also can display words and images, allowing them to show information or instructions for visitors.

Alps Alpine Co. is displaying touchless panels with buttons that people can "press" just by hovering their fingers a few centimeters above the screen.

Panasonic Corp. is featuring its artificial intelligence chatbot system "WisTalk," which was developed to help people working remotely at home by automatically replying to routine inquiries, letting them concentrate on more important tasks. The AI system requires a three-week preparation period to familiarize itself with the employee correspondence routines it will be tasked with completing.

Many online conference sessions will be held over the four-day event to discuss technologies that are expected to be useful in the post-coronavirus world, including one welcoming Eric Yuan, CEO and founder of Zoom Communications Inc. on Tuesday.

Zoom's video conference technology has become a go-to for people isolated at home around the world during the pandemic.

Yuan said such remote communication technologies have "completely changed" people's way of life, providing new services including telehealth consultations in which medical professionals can talk with patients via their internet-connected device and even some instances of "zoom marriages."

In other fields, Toshiba Corp., returning to the event after a six-year absence, is touting its highly accurate cancer detection technology that can distinguish 13 types of cancer from microRNA in the blood in less than two hours.

NEC Corp. is presenting a concept to use its latest facial recognition technology to facilitate seamless travel or shopping. After registering scans of customers' faces, it enables people to board a plane without tickets or buy items without cash or credit cards.

To make up for the lost face-to-face contact with exhibitors this year due to the online format, visitors can remotely communicate with each company via the chat function on the exhibition's website, CEATEC organizers said.

The organizers said they received applications from 356 companies and institutions, including 71 from overseas, to join the online event this year, slightly up from 355 last year. More than 200,000 visitors are expected to access the website.

Shikano also said Monday he is considering holding the event in a "hybrid style" next year, making it partially online while trying to secure a physical venue such as Makuhari Messe for exhibitors to still have an in-person presence.

The CEATEC website will be available until the end of the year without the live chat function, letting viewers see the participants' displays and watch conferences recorded over the four days, the organizers said.

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