Social connectedness is a key factor in well-being in our lives. "Few things are more conducive to health than being joyfully with other people". Loneliness, on the other hand, makes us sick. In times of the pandemic, it became clear once again how important social connectedness is for us. Particularly with increasing age, social connectedness and participation declines. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, 16.9 million people live alone in their homes, with 5.8 million being 65 years old or older (Destatis, 2020). By 2040, 1 of 4 person in Germany is expected to live alone.
In the project ZEIT, social connectedness across separated or distant people will be strengthened through mixed reality and social signals. The focus is on the emotional aspects of interpersonal communication, such as the exchange of joy and happiness, contentment, discomfort, stress and worry, but also on the typical physical interactions that otherwise lack in video and audio communication, such as the touching, hugging, handshaking or patting on the shoulder to praise and acknowledge.
The focus is on researching and developing a multimodal, user-centered mixed reality application for bridging the gap between elderly people living alone and their relatives to answer the following research question: how can immersive tactile stimuli in a VR environment make interpersonal emotions communicable over a distance?