Artificial intelligence and virtual reality took center stage as Japan's major annual electronics show opened to the media on Monday, with NEC Corp., Sony Group Corp. and other major tech companies demonstrating their latest technologies.

A total of 684 companies and organizations, up from 562 last year, are participating in this year's Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, scheduled to open to the public from Tuesday through Friday in the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, near Tokyo.

Japan's major electronics show CEATEC opens to the press for a preview at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba on Oct. 16, 2023, a day before it opens to the public. (Kyodo)

It is the first CEATEC to be held after coronavirus restrictions were fully removed. The event was held partly or fully online for the past three years.

Overseas participants have increased to 195 from 146 last year, with a pavilion to showcase Ukrainian companies set up for the first time.

NEC Corp. is displaying generative AI software, which it says has a high ability to cope with the Japanese language and is more suited for businesses that deal with confidential information compared with its rival services overseas.

"Our product is easy to install on customers' servers directly, unlike other services that rely on cloud computing," said Kazuya Ishikawa, evangelist at NEC Generative AI Hub, adding, "That makes it easy for our customers to handle sensitive information on our AI."

Sony Group Corp. is exhibiting a series of products that are designed to be easily handled by people with or without disabilities through virtual reality technologies.

One of the exhibits is a game utilizing cross-reality, or XR, technology that allows visually impaired people to play virtual catch with smartphones that emit the sound of an imaginary flying ball.

Players throw and catch the virtual ball, taking their cue from the sound of the ball that changes its tone depending on the imagined distance from the players, Sony said.

"This can be also played between people who are physically apart utilizing the combination of real and virtual technologies. It is very popular at nursing homes," a Sony official said.

Japan's major electronics show CEATEC opens to the press for a preview at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba on Oct. 16, 2023, a day before it opens to the public. (Kyodo)

The maker of PlayStation 5 also unveiled a new controller of the console specifically designed for disabled people while also showcasing a smart monocle for people with impaired hearing that displays what other people have said in letters in real time.

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. showcased a system where users can move small robots through a smartphone interface. The system can be used to allow robots to do hazardous tasks in place of humans, among other duties, it said.

The company is also exhibiting a system that makes factory work more enjoyable using augmented reality technology. Specially designed glasses allow the user to see virtual animals that assist them with certain tasks, it said.

"We hope this technology helps companies attract more workers by making factory work more fun at a time when a labor shortage has become such an imminent issue," a company official said.

The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association, the event's organizer, said it expects more than 100,000 people, up 20,000 from last year, to visit the venue over the four days.

Related coverage:

Japan chipmaker Kioxia, Western Digital close to merger: sources

2 tril. yen Toshiba takeover bid succeeds, Japan investor group says

Sony raises FY 2023 net profit view amid robust PlayStation growth