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Toyota, Sony working together in robotics -- but not on Aibo dog

TOKYO (AP) – Toyota and Sony, two of Japan’s biggest technology names, are getting together in robotics, both sides said Monday, to develop an innovative, intelligent, single-seat vehicle.

But don’t expect Toyota Motor Corp. to resurrect Sony’s now defunct Aibo dog robot – as some devoted robot fans may be hoping.

Sony Corp.’s technology for Aibo and the childlike Qrio is still being kept in-house at the Japanese electronics and entertainment company, said Sony spokesman Tomio Takizawa.

The technology sale, including key patents, from Sony to Toyota completed earlier this year applies to the next-generation ”transporter,” both sides said. Details of the financial deal are not being disclosed.

Seven Sony researchers are temporarily working in Toyota’s partner robot research unit to help relay the technology to Toyota, Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi said.

Toyota has shown a futuristic-looking single-seat vehicle called i-swing at various events. The automaker, on track to beat General Motors Corp. as the world’s biggest as soon as this year, has also shown humanoids that can walk and play a trumpet.

Also Monday, Toyota is introducing as a guide at its showroom at headquarters TPR-Robina, a womanlike robot-on-wheels it has developed.

The robot can dodge obstacles, sign its name, carry on simple conversations in Japanese and deliver preprogrammed information in an electronic voice, according to the manufacturer of Camry, Lexus and Corolla cars.

Sony’s decided to kill its Aibo business last year as part of a major restructuring program at a time it had been losing money in its core electronics operations.

The decision disappointed many robot fans. Although Sony sold just 150,000 of the toy poodle-sized machines since they were first introduced in 1999, some owners were emotionally attached to their mechanical pets.

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