Abertay University has been awarded £276,000 as part of an international project using virtual reality, apps and video games to tackle loneliness.
From Isolation to Inclusion (i2i) involves multiple partners from across Europe’s North Sea Region and throughout the UK.
Abertay, which became the first university in the world to award degrees in computer games and ethical hacking, will help propose technological answers to the problem of isolation.
Researcher Dr Paula Forbes, 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.
“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 revealed that more than a third of people living in Scotland have felt lonely during the 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 coronavirus.
“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.
“This means that many people, especially those living alone, will be feeling increasingly isolated. Finding a solution requires action from many different agencies.”
The i2i project is part of an EU Cohesion Policy that supports co-operation across borders and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Professor Mohamed Branine, dean of Abertay’s school of business, law and social sciences, said: “We are delighted to be part of this project, which fits in well with the school’s research strategy.
“It has come at a very important time, during a pandemic which has caused people who have never experienced isolation before to deal with the stark reality of this problem.”
Abertay is open to working with others to which this project would have a positive impact.
Anyone interested is asked to contact email@example.com.