A tour of the vast CeBIT show (photos)

This German tech show is huge, drawing more than 300,000 visitors and 4,200 exhibitors--governments and universities as well as companies out to sell their products. Here's a look at the massive enterprise.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Stephen Shankland
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Trust in the cloud: A dance interpretation

CeBIT's theme in 2012 was security, so attendees of the CeBIT opening ceremonies were treated to this dance interpretation of "trust in the cloud." The dancers doubtless were grateful the theme wasn't something like NEBS-compliant servers.
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CeBIT 2012 Opening Ceremony

CeBIT's opening ceremony took place at the Hannover Congress Center in Germany.
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Rittal data center

What data center doesn't look more exciting lit by blue LEDs? Rittal, a specialist in the market, showed this one off at CeBIT.
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Fraunhofer's Kuka drawing robot

The Fraunhofer Institute usually uses this robot for gauging the quality of new reflective materials, but at the CeBIT show, it used it to draw portraits. The robot took a digital photo of a person, processed it digitally, drew a line-art portrait, showed it off, erased it, then started over again.
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YYC's super-bright LED floodlight

LED lighting is all the rage, and Chinese manufacturer YYC showed off a number of very bright models. This 36-LED floodlight, the QP-G130, draws 40 watts of power. Ordinarily, a diffusing dome covers the LEDs.
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Hannover Neues Rathaus

CeBIT is held annually in Hanover, Germany, but has expanded to other areas such as Turkey. Hanover's Neues Rathaus opened in 1913 and is the home of its mayor.
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Grassy, metal-topped cones

The Expo 2000, a world fair held in Hanover more than a decade ago, led Hannover Messe to spruce up the fairgrounds with more than just hulking rectangular buildings. Next to building 26 is this collection of grassy, metal-topped cones.
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Lisa Graff shows Xeon E5 2600 chip wafer

Lisa Graff, general manager of Intel's data center platform engineering group, holds a 300mm wafer of Intel's E5 Xeon processors at the CeBIT trade show.
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Zeiss Cinemizer OLED glasses

Zeiss showed its Cinemizer OLED 3D glasses at CeBIT. The glasses feature dual x organic light-emitting diode displays. One potential use: letting film directors review 3D footage immediately on set. There are rubber eyecups to keep stray light out.
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Zeiss Cinemizer OLED glasses

Zeiss showed off its its Cinemizer OLED 3D glasses as a way to explore a virtual world, with head-tracking technology to change the perspective. The glasses require a cable to get video data, though, and they cost 649 euros, or about $850.
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Global Flight remote-controlled camera copter

Another use of Zeiss's Cinemizer OLED 3D glasses is piloting remote-controlled aircraft from the perspective of the aircraft itself, a task that Zeiss partner Globe Flight offers. That's useful in particular for aerial photography, which Globe Flight offers through the use of unmanned helicopters and gliders. A glider and four-rotor helicopter can carry a lightweight GoPro video camera, and a beefier eight-rotor helicopter can carry an SLR camera for higher-quality images. The helicopters feature 3-axis stabilized, tilting camera platforms for a precise view, and can they fly along a series of waypoints by GPS navigation.
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Google booth at CeBIT

Google drew a solid crowd at CeBIT. Its big focus was promoting Google+.
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Google+ up for show at CeBIT

Google handed out +1 stickers and tried to show CeBIT attendees how Google+ features such as circles work.
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Robot safety zone

This yellow robot is surrounded by strips of yellow-striped tape that designate safety zones. A camera overhead monitors the zones and gradually slows the robot as a person gets closer. On a typical production line, the robot would stop when a person got close enough then restart once a person left, but at the Robotation Academy, this robot comes with an even closer zone that stops it altogether; a keyed switch on a control panel restarts it.
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Demo robot

The Robotation Academy at Hannover Messe--site of the mammoth CeBIT trade show- is designed to instruct potential customers in the ways of robotics. CeBIT organizer Deutsche Messe runs the center, but Volkswagen instructors staff it in an attempt to improve manufacturing quality at the auto maker's suppliers.
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DFKI EO electric car

DFKI's EO prototype electric vehicle comes with radical steering options such as the ability to rotate in place.
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T-mobile digital waterfall

T-Mobile had a digital fountain whose falling droplets of water spelled words and made shapes. "Entwickler" means developer in English. People could send text messages with messages they wanted to see "printed."
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Fraunhofer ball-tracking tech

The ball sensor is mounted with wires to the interior of the soccer ball. It broadcasts a radio signal powered by a four-hour battery; a network of 12 receivers in the stadium gather the data so precise location can be calculated.
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Ultrabooks on parade

Intel, on a massive campaign to promote thin laptops it calls ultrabooks, showed off a range at a press conference at CeBIT. Intel is working feverishly to lower the cost of ultrabook components such as chassis, storage, displays, and batteries. A big part of the work is Intel's $300 million fund to support companies producing high-quality "thin ingredients" at mass-market volume, said Karen Regis, Intel's director of ultrabook marketing. "You can't just use the same old ingredients," Regis said.
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3D shopping

Intel showed off "3D shopping" technology that lets people see themselves on a computer screen wearing virtual versions of dark glasses, hats, and other objects that are dynamically added to a video feed. It also lets people navigate through a Web page by waving their hands in various gestures.
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Supercooling a chip

Nick Shih pours liquid nitrogen to keep a processor supercooled and maximally overclockable at CeBIT.
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Secusmart encryption microSD card

Secusmart's microSD card has an encryption chip that can encode and decode VoIP calls in real time.
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Still supertall forklift

Forklift and warehouse automation company Still showed off its super-high-reach MX-X forklift at CeBIT. The operator rises about three stories above the ground along with the cargo.
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Still's self-driving forklift prototype

In a few years, warehouse automation company Still expects forklifts such as this Cube XX prototype to be self-driving.
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Lower Saxony binary test

The German state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) boasted on billboards of having invented binary 333 years ago and offered decoding puzzles to CeBIT attendees. This one translates to "lots of fun at CeBIT!"
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BrainLight brainwave relaxation chairs

BrainLight sales manager Peter Haefner says his company's LED-equipped eyeshades blink in a relaxing rhythm that's "like yoga for your brain." It's like being entranced by a flickering fire in the fireplace, he said. If nothing else, CeBIT showgoers looked like they appreciated a chance to recline on a massage chair.
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CeBIT roter punkt for stranded travelers

A transit strike on the third day of CeBIT 2012 led show organizers to hand out "roter punkt" (red dot) pieces of paper that people could use to signal that they needed a lift from a local driver to the main train station, where some trains were running to the show, or that locals could use to signal they were willing to give one.
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Mia Electric cars

Mia Electric had a handful of small electric three-person vans to shuttle people around CeBIT.
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Amazon CTO Werner Vogels

Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels beat the "big data" drum at CeBIT 2012. Amazon has clout in the area given its own vast logs of customer behavior. Here, he talks about three tenets required to make the most out of big data: "volume, velocity, and variety."
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Shuttle's Mini-NAS

The Mini-NAS from Taiwanese computer maker Shuttle is a compact product for storing data on a home network for sharing, media streaming, or backup. It also can act as a print server for a USB-connected printer. It accommodates either a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD.
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Shuttle's new compact desktop PC

Shuttle showed a new computer set to ship in coming months, the SZ77R5. It accommodates Intel i3, i5, and i7 processors, has two PCI Express slots, accommodates one optical drive and two 3.5-inch hard drives, and can hold up to 8GB of memory.
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Shuttle's compact PC

Another new compact Shuttle PC is this XS35GTAV2, set to ship in May in Europe. It can be mounted to the back of a flat-panel display for a quick all-in-one design. This model is similar to predecessors but swaps out Nvidia graphics for an AMD GPU. It uses a dual-core Intel Atom D525 processor running at 1.8GHz and holds up to 4GB of memory.
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Wireless bicycle brake demo

Saarlands University researchers showed this wirelessly activated bicycle disk brake at CeBIT. The point wasn't to actually demonstrate cable-free brakes--who'd rely on a green plastic zip tie to link the actuator with the brake pads?--but rather to show research into techniques for reliable wireless data transmission as those used to coordinate German trains, said professor Holger Hermans.
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Wireless bike brake radio interference testing

Saarlands University research into high-reliability wireless links used this wireless bicycle brake system. Squeezing the handlebar grip would activate the brake with a signal sent from the top blue box. Two other blue boxes act as repeaters for the signal. Repeaters are intended to boost reliability, but they can actually reduce it with digital wireless communications by taking up available data capacity, said professor Holger Hermans. The research is used to investigate wireless communications situations where safety is at stake, not actually to develop wireless bike brakes.
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Rittal fireproof, floodproof data center rack

Rittal, a specialist in data centers and components such as racks and power distribution, debuted its glamorously named Level B Modular Safe, a lower-cost alternative to its existing line of enclosed racks that are sealed against problems such as fire, floods, and unauthorized access. It weighs about 500 kilograms, or 1,100 pounds.
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Secusmart encryption art

Secusmart, which showed off end-to-end mobile phone call encryption, adorned its CeBIT booth with encrypted-text gibberish decor.
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CeBIT's wooden roof

The Hannover Messe, where CeBIT is held each year, consists of many large boxy buildings the size of aircraft hangars, but more recent buildings are more architecturally adventurous. Fittingly, another show at the fairgrounds concerns wooden products.

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