Against Loneliness: Sharing with Enactive Virtual Agent
The very nature of the human species is social. Loneliness correlates with mental and physical ill-being within, for instance, the elderly, or people with disabilities, or other conditions causing reduced life-environment. Simultaneously, an increasing trend in the European lifestyle is to outsource taking care of such members of family, or in a broader scale, the society, into the hands of professional social and medical care. In the light of recent studies, loneliness can be considered a fatal condition. Loneliness reduces the ability to improve one’s life-conditions, motivation of taking care of one’s health, and affects negatively the functions of society, thereby indirectly also the European economy. As an indication of the urgency of the matter, UK has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness.
The issue dictates the need to figure out all plausible ways to fight loneliness. While human company must be the primary solution, other solutions must be considered to provide socio-emotional comfort to those who suffer of the lack of human accompaniment. An intriguing suggestion is whether technology in some form might contribute to relieve this sore issue.
Work-in-progress: Enactive Virtuality Lab, BFM, TLU (MOBTT90) in collaboration with University of Tartu (UTARTU) Estonia, University of Barcelona (UB) Spain, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC)Israel, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) Germany, Sense of Space Oy (SoS) Finland, Trotzkind GmbH (TRO) Germany and Tartu Linna Pensionäride Organisatsioon “Kodukotus” (TLPO) Estonia.
Image below: Skype group session during the project in development.
Video image: A conceptual 3D sketch of the shared experience between a bed-bound elderly and an enactive virtual accompaniment in VR immersive environment. The video depicts a first-person perspective to the co-presence when addressing loneliness by means of artificial accompaniment and virtual reality technologies. Against Loneliness: Sharing with Enactive Virtual Agent, MOBTT90. The 3D art work Eeva R Tikka, 2019.