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Business

Toyota, partners back talking-robot startup

Funds will go toward refining AI tech

TOKYO -- A fund backed in part by Toyota Motor has invested in MJI, a venture creating a robot that can converse with and watch over its owner.

MJI has received 564 million yen ($4.98 million) from the Mirai Creation Investment fund founded by Toyota, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Sparx Group. The money will help improve artificial intelligence technology used in the voice-responsive robot that the venture has been developing since its 2015 founding. SMBC is part of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.

The Tapia robot can deliver weather and news reports in response to voice commands, for example, or monitor seniors living alone. The Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki uses a custom version to interact with restaurant patrons.

The technological strength of MJI's conversation robot is "among the highest in the world," said Tomohiro Nagamori, an MJI director and son of Nidec CEO Shigenobu Nagamori. "We hope to take [Tapia] to Southeast Asia and elsewhere worldwide." The startup aims to sell more than 100,000 of the robots.

(Nikkei)

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