Bertelsmann Foundation Introduces CITEC Projects on the Smart Home

CITEC demonstrators present video on “Smart Countries“

How can robots and other assistive technologies make life easier for the elderly? In a new video, the Bertelsmann Foundation reports on the Smart Home projects at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). This video is part of the “Smart Country” project, which was created by the Bertelsmann Foundation. Smart Country provides a glimpse into the challenges Germany will have to face in the twenty-first century.

Flobi provides assistance in orientating oneself in the apartment, pictured here with Patrick Holthaus, a member of research apartment’s academic staff. Photo: CITEC/ Bielefeld University At the center of this video is the Cognitive Service Robotics Apartment (CSRA). Twelve research groups are working on this project to realize the vision of creating smart, trustworthy systems. The researchers are developing various assistive technologies that help make people’s lives easier. “The demographic developments that are taking place in Germany are already having a noticeable impact,” says Professor Dr. Britta Wrede, Coordinator of the CSRA research apartment. “We are already now seeing that elderly people need a good deal of assistance, and that it is far preferable for seniors to be able to live at home for as long as possible. For this, a technology like the one we are developing here is very helpful.”  

In order to make the apartment capable of serving the individual needs of different users, various cameras and Britta Wrede leads the CSRA research apartment project at CITEC. Photo: CITEC/ Bielefeld Universitysensors are placed throughout the apartment. “If I am an elderly person who would like to keep living at home, then I would likely be happy to have something like cameras that keep an eye on me. This would give me a sense of security, not a privacy problem. We frequently hear this kind of feedback,” explains Dr. Wrede. The CITEC researchers are developing and testing the virtual avatar Flobi and the service robot Mekabot in this apartment. Mekabot is a Meka M1 Mobile Manipulator. In the future, Mekabot is planned to carry the Flobi robotic head, which was also developed by CITEC researchers. In addition to this, other components from the smart apartment KogniHome will be integrated into the CRSA apartment. For the KogniHome research project, 14 regional partners are working intensively on the ethical, legal, and social considerations raised by the smart apartment.

“For us, an important aspect of this research apartment are the interactive surfaces, which are humanoid,” explains Dr. Wrede in the video. “This matters because people are better at using human-like interactive surfaces. Take the face, for example: this is why we are using a robot with a face — so that people know where they should be looking.” Assistive technologies should not be too humanoid, though, which might make some users fear them. To investigate people’s acceptance of these research prototypes, the researchers conduct regular tests with users.


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Professorin Dr. Britta Wrede, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: 0521 106-2953