French Ambassador Visits CITEC

French Ambassador pays a visit to Billie, the virtual avatar, and the Taktil-Lab at CITEC

Together with a delegation, the Ambassador of France, Philippe Etienne, visited Bielefeld University and the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). At CITEC, he viewed Billie, the virtual avatar, and the Tactile-Lab.

French ambassador Philippe Etienne (front, center) visited the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). Photo: CITEC / Bielefeld University On 4 April 2017, CITEC researcher Ramin Yaghoubzadeh demonstrated the virtual avatar Billie for French Ambassador Philippe Etienne, Vincent Muller (French Consul General in Düsseldorf), and Françoise Rétif (Director of the Institut Français in Bonn). Billie is part of Kompass, a project funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF, Federal Ministry of Education and Research). The avatar is a social, cooperative virtual assistant, who provides support to people requiring assistance with planning their daily tasks. The researchers can alter Billie’s appearance based on how the users want it to look. CITEC and the v. Bodelschwingh Bethel Foundation are working together on Kompass with the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld. As part of this project, the researchers are also addressing ethical and legal questions: how much should a technical assistant be permitted to intervene without domineering over the user? What data should be allowed to be stored? What kinds of liability issues arise?

After visiting Billie, Professor Dr. Helge Ritter and Dr. Guillaume Walck gave the French guests a tour of the Tactile-Lab and briefed the delegation on the current status of research on the Famula project. In this large-scale project, two robotic hands are learning to familiarize themselves with unfamiliar objects. Several CITEC research groups are cooperating on this interdisciplinary project.

Before visiting CITEC, the Ambassador and his delegation spoke with Rektor of Bielefeld University, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer. Among other topics, they discussed the German-French degree program in history between Bielefeld University and University of Paris-Diderot. This program enables students of both universities to earn a bi-national degree at the Bachelor’s or Master’s level.

More information is available online at:

Kompass and Billie, the virtual avatar:
News report from Bielefeld University: