Summary: One natural extension of this family is the class of nilsystems and their inverse limits. These systems have arisen in recent applications in ergodic theory and in additive combinatorics, renewing interest in studying these classical objects. Minimal rotations can be characterized via the regionally proximal relation. We introduce a new relation, the bi-regionally proximal relation, and show that it characterizes inverse limits of two step nilsystems. Minimal rotations are linked to almost periodic sequences, and more generally nilsystems correspond to nilsequences. Theses sequences were introduced in ergodic theory and have since be used in some questions of Number Theory. Using our characterization of two step nilsystems we deduce a characterization of two step nilsequences. The proofs rely in an essential way on the study of “parallelepiped structures” developed by

*B. Kra* and the first author [Bull. Soc. Math. Fr. 136, No. 3, 405–437 (2008;

Zbl 1189.11006)].