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Philips wants to ditch the remote control. Instead, you have to talk to a dialogue system, or Smart Companion, as the Dutch consumer electronics giant calls its newest invention. The Smart Companion will act as a friend in the home and, according to Philips, provide an easy-to-use interface to the digital world.

i-CatDuring its Summer Technology Press Event this week Philips showed two home robots. The first one, Dimi, looks like a modern lamp with a rotating head. The other iCat has all the characteristics of a Japanese robot toy, and comes equipped with 13 servos that control different parts of the face, such as the eyebrows, eyes, eyelids, mouth and head position. iCat can look happy, surprised, angry and sad.

Both robots understand voice commands as well as recognise faces and gestures. They can select music or movies on an LCD screen, make appointments or read the weather to you. Ok, that's more than a remote can do.

Despite all the hoopla, Philips is still fine-tuning the technology, which at this moment fails to invoke an emotional bond with the user and exhibit a "personality". During demonstrations, iCat didn't always listen, or began to repeat itself, all things remotes won't luckily do. For the time being, Philips only sells these platforms to universities and research labs. ®

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