PROJECT TO TACKLE LONELINESS USING VR, APPS AND VIDEO GAMES

Abertay University has been awarded £276,000 as part of a ground-breaking international project aimed at using new technologies such as virtual reality, apps and videogames to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

From Isolation to Inclusion (i2i) involves multiple partners from across Europe’s North Sea Region including Norway’s University of Agder, which is leading the project, along with institutes in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.

Project partners in the UK include the Canal and River Trust, and the Campaign to End Loneliness.

Abertay University, home of the world’s first degrees in Computer Games and Ethical Hacking, is to help propose innovative technological solutions to tackle the issue.

Researcher Dr Paula Forbes (pictured), from Abertay’s Division of Social Sciences, said: “With so many people experiencing social isolation and loneliness, the public sector is struggling to address this complex problem. The i2i project will work with third sector organisations as well as local authorities and policy makers to co-design and test several novel innovative approaches.

“Abertay has a particular interest in looking at how technology can be used to make connections and decrease social isolation.

“We will investigate the use of novel technology such as Virtual and Augmented Reality and Computer Games, along with more familiar technology to make connections and ensure that despite being physically isolated, people can still feel socially included.”

It comes after recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that more than a third of people living in Scotland have felt lonely during the current coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Forbes added: “In the current Covid 19 climate we are all having a glimpse of what it is like to be isolated, albeit temporarily.

“We should remember that large numbers of people are socially isolated and lonely even before the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus crisis existed.

“We believe that measures for restricting the virus will mean that social distancing will be a feature of our lives for some time, especially for those with underlying health conditions or older people.

“This means that many people, especially those living alone, will be feeling increasingly isolated. Finding a solution requires action from many different agencies.”