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London Design Biennale: Developing technology to combat loneliness

Interview with Dr Wei Liu, Principal Investigator of Deloneliness, on exhibiting at the London Design Biennale

King’s features in Eureka, an exhibition of design-led research taking place across UK universities, as part of the 2023 London Design Biennale from 1 – 25 June. The King’s showcase 'Seeking Connection' features Natural, Mathematical and Engineering Sciences research projects, taking the viewer on a journey from the smallest cell to the vastness of the universe.

We met for a Q&A with the minds behind the research to find out more on the projects, what it’s like to cross the bridge between research and design, and how their research paints a brighter tomorrow for the way we form connections with ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

We spoke to Dr Wei Liu, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering and Principal Investigator behind Deloneliness, a pioneering smart design system that integrates wearable technology into the day-to-day routine of older adults to combat loneliness. Here she talks about the impetus behind the project and dreams for the future.

Dr Wei Liu

What is the impetus behind Deloneliness and what do you hope to achieve by its creation?

The UK is an aging society, with the latest Census data suggesting that nearly 1 in 5 people in England and Wales are over the age of 65. This pattern is likely to continue and pose a number of significant challenges to society. A particular concern shared by authorities such as the NHS and leading charity Age UK is around loneliness in older people, with this group being particularly vulnerable due to increased chance of limited social interaction.

The subjective feeling of loneliness has been associated with a range of negative outcomes including increased prevalence of physical and mental illness, all-cause mortality, and risk of self-harm.

The Deloneliness project, sponsored by EPSRC and NIHR, aims to design a smart monitoring and communication system to measure loneliness levels in older people. By building multifunctional electronics into textiles used every day, whether it be in home furniture or even clothing, we hope to measure and record the tell-tale indications of heightened levels of loneliness by analysing this sensor data with artificial intelligence (AI). By refining methods of identifying loneliness in groups facing isolation, we hope that Deloneliness will pave the way for timely and effective intervention to prevent negative outcomes in the elderly.


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How have you found being part of the team bringing Deloneliness to life, and how do you feel about exhibiting it at the London Design Biennale?

Exhibiting at the London Design Biennale has been a fantastic opportunity for our project team to demonstrate our conceptual designs to the general public and showcase to them the impact of our research so far. Through this platform, we also hope to encourage more people to understand the very real effects of loneliness and inspire them to think of loneliness as an important societal issue with global relevance. 

Our thanks go to King’s College, as well as the Biennale organisers and its staff for supporting us in the development of this exhibition.


'Seeking Connection' is all about the power of interdisciplinary work, pulling together research from across the university and beyond. What has an interdisciplinary approach brought to Deloneliness?

The Deloneliness project is rooted in the power of interdisciplinary work and is a testament to the power of this collaborative approach. Loneliness is a complicated societal issue, the understanding of which requires expertise and knowledge from different disciplines and areas of study. The project has pulled together experts from the social psychology of aging (social gerontology), psychology, design, smart materials and AI to shape the work of universities, industries, NGOs and policy makers.

Design and technology innovation work hand-in-hand with effective collaborations like this one to create real and lasting change.

What's next for Deloneliness?

Partners and I across King’s and further afield will continue to work on Deloneliness for the next two years. In that time, we’ll look to develop further the multicomponent smart systems and AI algorithms that make up the measuring and monitoring side of Deloneliness, as well as any explorations of relevant health or data policy in the UK.

During those two years, we’ll also look for potential opportunities for commercialisation and scaling up Deloneliness, so we can help as many people as possible and tackle the very serious problem loneliness poses to older members of our community.


If you could say one thing to visitors coming to see Deloneliness at the Biennale, what would it be?

People experiencing loneliness need more care and attention from our society. This is not a question of how we want a distant group to be treated, but how we want our parents and grandparents to be treated. As the UK continues to age, this will be an enduring problem.

This means that your support for our research is of great importance, and we would appreciate your involvement. Please contact us at, if you may have any ideas or thoughts relevant to this project you wish to share with us.


Deloneliness will be on display at ‘Seeking Connection’ at the London Design Biennale, Somerset House from 1-25 June. For more information and tickets, visit the London Design Biennale website.

In this story

Wei Liu

Wei Liu

Professor of Design Engineering and Innovation

Seeking Connection

Research from across King’s features in Eureka, the exhibition of design-led research taking place across UK universities, as part of the 2023 London Design Biennale. On display from 1 – 25…

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