Press Release

App to make healthy living more than a virtual reality

Published on 26 February 2020

Virtual coaches developed by the University of Dundee are to provide friendly faces in the fight to improve public health.

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Computer characters on screen

Virtual coaches developed by the University of Dundee are to provide friendly faces in the fight to improve public health.

The Council of Coaches study is looking for 50 volunteers to test software that encourages users to make small adjustments in their diet and exercise habits.

Developed as part of a Europe-wide study, the EU Horizon 2020 project introduces users to a panel of virtual coaches. Each coach within the app has a distinct personality and focuses on a specific issue relating to wellbeing. Some of the characters have also been developed to specialise in health problems such as chronic pain or diabetes.

Computing PhD student Dominic De Franco, who is leading the study, said, “The links between inactivity and poor health are well documented.

“Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes are incredibly serious, affecting 1 in 20 of the Scottish population. Those living with it know what they have to do to make positive changes, but our research has found that they often feel nagged about adopting a healthier lifestyle.

“Council of Coaches has been designed to create a supportive environment that encourages its users without adopting a judgemental tone that often puts people off. Now we are looking for volunteers to use the app in daily life to examine how they interact with it and determine whether it can inform lasting, healthy changes in lifestyle.

“Ultimately we want people to take responsibility for their own health management, and if this can be achieved not only could it improve an individual’s quality of life, but also significantly reduce the strain on health services.”

Volunteers must be over the age of 55 or alternatively, over the age of 18 and living with Type 2 diabetes. Personal fitness trackers will be provided to participants, allowing them to monitor their activity, while volunteers will also be reimbursed for their time with £80 worth of Amazon vouchers.

Anybody interested in taking part can sign up online or email d.f.defranco@dundee.ac.uk for further information.

Enquiries

Jonathan Watson

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489

j.s.watson@dundee.ac.uk