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Philips Research Develops Cat-Shaped Robot, Remote Control

Philips Research has been demonstrating the "iCat"; a prototype user-interface to consumer electronics in the shape of a yellow plastic cat.
LONDON — Philips has followed in the path of numerous Japanese electronics companies and started investigating the possibility of robotic companions as consumer electronic products. Philips Research has been demonstrating the "iCat"; a prototype user-interface to consumer electronics in the shape of a yellow plastic cat.

The iCat provides a user-interface that provides "natural human-like interaction to help you in your daily tasks such as sending messages, accessing daily information, selecting your favorite music, photos and video or even guarding your home," according to a Philips statement.

The iCat prototype has been tested in the Philips Research HomeLab, and is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of a future consumer product called "Smart Companion". As the mouse interface is to the PC so the Smart Companion will be to an networked home electronics environment, Philips said.

The iCat employs speech recognition, computer vision, robotics and animatronics in order to manifest a personality, Philips said. It understands spoken requests, gives replies, recognizes faces and everyday objects and nods, and makes facial expressions and other head movements.

The iCat is connected via a USB link to a standard PC for processing power and storage capacity. Its intelligence is encompassed in a multi-layer software architecture, which includes motivation and emotion simulation and a "deliberation engine" that reasons about users, their activities and connected devices in the home.

The iCat can play audio, photo and video content from multiple sources such as PCs, Internet or other storage devices, Philips said.

During 2005 Philips Research has been extending its work on user-interface robots by setting up a research community with universities and other research laboratories.