Toyota Unleashes Kirobo, A Doll With The Brains Of A Five Year Old

A week ago, I was invited to a hush-hush press conference of Toyota. A short stroll from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro station, the presser was held in a building that formerly housed a Toyota showroom, now it is home to parts of Toyota’s sprawling Japanese sales organization. It was a huge press conference, and all attendants were sworn to strict secrecy until today. Now I am able to tell you: At the presser, Toyota announced the not quite immediate availability of a doll.

The Japanese automotive juggernaut “plans to launch sales of its compact and cuddlesome Kirobo Mini communication partner,” the company said. For 39,800 yen (around $400, plus tax) I may be able to own the doll late this year, if I get in on-line at a presales-campaign “at designated dealers in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture this winter.” If all goes well, Kirobo-san may be available nationwide in Japan some time next year.

Kirobo is made from plastic surrounding a lot of electronics, produced by the Vaio Corporation, a 2014 spin-off from Sony that sold its PC division to a private equity fund after a long stretch to losses, partially because more than a few consumers were convinced that Vaio computers were beset by the infamous “Sony timer” that would cause the gadget go belly-up a week after the warranty runs out. The new Vaio Corp. wants to focus on market niches, and apparently, it hopes that Toyota’s doll is one of them.

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