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Wacky Japan: The jazzy robot

Toyota's taken a lot of flak recently. But you wouldn't know it from listening to the "Toyota Partner Robot" playing jazz standards on the trumpet.

It's one of the more bizarre highlights at Toyota's Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya.

The museum charts the firm's rise from a humble automatic loom manufacturer to the world's number one auto firm. Fascinating historical footnote: patriarch Sakichi Toyoda sent his son, Kiichiro Toyoda, to England to negotiate the sale of a patent for his innovative automatic loom, then told him to invest the proceeds into researching automobiles.

And then there are the robots, or specifically, Partner Robots, designed to provide assistance and companionship for Japan's growing population of gray-hairs. The robots premiered nearby at the EXPO 2005 World's Fair, and, says the website:

"The walking model walks on two legs similar to a person, making it easy to become accustomed to. It is able to use its hands to carry out a wide variety of tasks."

It plays a mean trumpet, too, thanks to a set of artificial lips. On a recent afternoon it polished off "Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo", played a moving "Moon River" and languidly dispatched the Louis Armstrong standby, "What a Wonderful World." 

With all Toyota's been through, maybe they should teach it how to sing the blues.