Chris from Pyroelectro have sent us hos latest project where he creates an Infrared receiver which is capable of receiving signals from TV remotes, decode them and then perform assigned tasks.
The heart of system is a PIC18F452 microcontroller which captures signals from IR Phototransistor. Along with full project, you can also find here a nice tutorial on Infrared theory and IR signals. So you can fully understand how your remote control transmits commands to TV or other controllable device. With IR signal receiver you can have more than enough channels to start controlling stuff around, the only limitation is that you have to see what you are controlling.