Young woman and older man looking at a laptop screen

What is ICONIC?

ICONIC stands for Intergenerational Codesign of Novel technologies in Coastal Communities. It is an interdisciplinary Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project delivered by the University of Plymouth.
As society becomes ever more digital, those without access to technology are at risk of social isolation, with those that live in rural and coastal communities often impacted in particular. Connection to community, groups and activities in their neighbourhood and cultural landscape are essential for individual wellbeing, including social inclusion and healthy ageing. Additionally, in regions where traditional industries such as farming, mining, fishing and port activity have declined, adults starting their careers may also have fewer opportunities to get involved in digital technologies.
ICONIC aims to promote digital inclusion across Devon and Cornwall through the delivery of workshops in which participants will collaboratively design new technologies with support from researchers. The technologies have been selected to promote access to famous local heritage and environmental sites, and the project is working alongside a wide range of partners to support access for our participants to these sites.

What are we looking for?

We are looking to recruit 80 adults aged 50 or over, and 40 adults aged between 16 and 30. Participants should be based in Cornwall or Devon to join our workshops.
Participants do not need to have previous experience using, working with, or designing new technology. 
We encourage individuals with limited access or exposure to technology to sign up as a participant.

What does the study involve? 

Participants will be able to join a minimum of five monthly in-person workshops which will be held within Devon and Cornwall.
There will also be additional opportunities to learn more about the technologies used and provide feedback on the digital prototypes created.
Participants will be reimbursed for their attendance and travel according to distance.

What types of technology will be used?

The technologies the project will design during workshops are:
  • Extended reality: this allows you to explore real-world places (e.g. Dartmoor) from your own home, or view information projected into the real world environment. 
  • Social games: this will involve the creation of mobile and tablet based games that can be played and shared with friends and family.
  • Underwater telepresence: this is focused on designing a safe and engaging experience that allows you to explore the underwater environment (e.g. at Plymouth Sound or National Marine Aquarium) using remote video feeds.
  • AI voice interfaces: the goal is to design a technology that will allow you to access information that is usually only available online (e.g. about local events and services) while speaking on a telephone line, allowing people without an internet connection to access information from online sources.
For more information about each of these technologies, please see the frequently asked questions below. 

How will participants benefit from taking part?

Your views and other information we collect from you and other participants in the project will play an important part in the development of the four technologies that may be helpful for increasing visits to cultural and environmental sites.
Additionally, we can reimburse our participants with vouchers for their participation in the workshops based on the following scale:
  • for workshops that require under 45 minutes of travel, participants will be paid £15 per workshop
  • for workshops that require travel for up to 45 minutes to the workshop venue, participants will be paid £45 per workshop
  • for workshops that require travel for over 45 minutes to the workshop venue, participants will be paid £60 per workshop.
ICONIC workshop
ICONIC workshop - group of older people taking part in a talk
ICONIC workshop
ICONIC workshop

Frequently Asked Questions about the ICONIC Project

What will I be doing in the ICONIC project?

As part of the ICONIC project, you will be taking part in workshops that are focused on the collaborative design of four new technologies. We want to use your knowledge and opinions to direct the technology design. This will involve you taking part in activities including testing technology and creating prototypes with paper and card, and taking part in discussions focusing on what you would and wouldn’t like to see in the technology. 
Please note that you do not need to be familiar with technology to join the project as a participant.

What are the technologies that ICONIC is interested in, and why are you working with them?

Extended Reality

This is made up of immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. 
Virtual reality uses a headset to present users with a visible computer-generated 3D space that they physically explore by turning their head and looking around. The headset will track the user’s movement, and alter the viewpoint it displays to match the user’s movements. 
Augmented reality is an interactive technology that overlays computer-generated images or information over a real-world space. This involves using a camera that provides a video feed that can then have objects displayed over the top of it in the camera’s viewfinder. 
Extended reality will be used on the ICONIC project to provide remote access to local heritage and environmental sites in Cornwall and Devon. During the workshops, we will be learning what sorts of content and Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality techniques and platforms are accessible and user friendly. 

Social Games

This will involve the development of tools that allow users to create their own games that can be played individually or with others on mobile phones or tablets. We will allow users to share the games that they make using the tool with friends and family. 
Social Games in the ICONIC project will use resources provided by our environment and heritage partners to provide content for these games, allowing users to create themes. We are interested in learning what sorts of content users would want to use to create these games, and how we can create an accessible and user-friendly platform that allows users to share their creations.

Voice AI Interface 

This technology allows people who can’t or don’t want to use internet to use their voice to get information online about local events, communities and services. Instead of using the internet, the user will call the system through a telephone line. Once connected, the user can ask for information using their voice, and the system will understand them and give them the information they need through audio. 
If the system can't answer the question, it will provide the user with relevant contact information. The ICONIC project is interested in figuring out how to make this technology work for as many people as possible, and what kind of information people want to access using voice commands.

Underwater Telepresence

The goal of this project is to make the exploration of the underwater environment more accessible. The project involves installing static or moving cameras in the tanks at the National Marine Aquarium or in the sea around Plymouth Sound. 
The footage will be broadcast to users, so they can explore and learn about the marine life in the area. The videos may also be adapted for use with Virtual Reality headsets, which will make it feel more like you are actually underwater. The system may also include technology that can automatically identify local species of wildlife.
This information can be used for interactive games or as a learning experience. ICONIC wants to learn about what kind of experience you are interested in and how to present it to you in a way that is both engaging and informative.

Will I work with all four technologies?

Participants will be assigned to workshop groups that will focus on a single technology. You will get a choice in which technology you would work with, however.

Do I need to know anything about technology?

No! We are looking for people who are unfamiliar with technologies. The activities in the workshops will not require any previous knowledge of using technology.

Where will the workshops take place?

Workshops will be held across Cornwall and Devon. Once we have recruited our participants, we will be organising workshops at locations that are close to where our participants live, to ensure that they are accessible. We will also be asking our participants if they require any specific accessibility requirements.
Please note that underwater workshops will be held at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth – we are able to cover some transport costs for participants attending these workshops as a part of the payment for joining the workshop.

Why are you recruiting people aged between 16 and 30 years old or 50 years old and over?

We are focusing recruitment on these two groups because they may have had different experiences with technology. Some individuals may feel excluded from technology because they did not grow up alongside it or receive training in using different technologies at school or at work. 
Others may feel like they haven’t had the opportunity to learn the skills required to work in industries that focus on technologies due to the limited opportunities for this in Cornwall and Devon, compared to other areas of the country. 
By bringing together participants from both age groups, we can collaboratively build the technologies with ideas from diverse perspectives. Additionally, the ICONIC project will provide introductions to the new technologies in a friendly and supportive environment, giving participants opportunities to build new social groups and learn about the local environment and heritage sites in Cornwall and Devon, which can support wellbeing.

Why are you recruiting people in Cornwall and Devon?

We are focusing our work in Cornwall and Devon for a number of reasons.
First, there are a number of amazing natural environment and heritage sites in these regions such as the Cornwall Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty, Dartmoor National Park, and the Minack Theatre. These sites provide fantastic opportunities to create content for each of the technologies and will allow people to experience each site in a new and hopefully exciting way. 
Second, the rural and coastal nature of the two counties means that individuals may have difficulties accessing the environment and heritage sites. The technologies and workshops will provide users with new ways to interact and learn about local nature and history. 
Third, technology use in Cornwall and Devon is not as common as it is in other areas of the country, such as in the bigger cities. The workshops will provide users with opportunities to play with the four technologies and learn about how they can be used. This may then give people an interest in using different technologies to support themselves in their daily life.

What is the minimum commitment to the project?

Ideally our participants will remain with us for the duration of the project (a minimum of five monthly workshops per technology). We would like to have participants to join us for at least three workshops.

How often will the workshops be held?

Workshops will be held on a monthly basis.

How many workshops will I attend, and how long are they?

Each workshop will last up to 120 minutes and there will be a minimum of five workshops for each workshop group.

What happens after I sign up for the project?

You will first complete an initial interview before joining a workshop group. This interview will be focused on the extent to which you currently engage with technology, and whether you have opportunities to engage with community activities and local environment and heritage sites such as the National Marine Aquarium, Dartmoor National Park, or the Eden Project.

Who is the ICONIC project working with?

What will happen to the technology developed as a part of the ICONIC project?

We are hoping that the collaborative and active design of the four technologies will produce products that are accessible and intuitive to use for a wide range of people. We will then look to try and share the technology with our partners, so the legacy of the project remains in technologies that see ongoing use in Cornwall and Devon after the project finishes in 2025. The project will also present the technologies at public events, so we will be able to show off the new technologies that participants helped to design to a wider audience. 

Who owns the technology developed as part of the ICONIC project?

The technology IP generated as a part of the project will belong to the social enterprise that the University of Plymouth will set up as a part of the ICONIC project. This social enterprise will have the University as its main partner but will continue to work with other partners that are currently engaged with ICONIC, including those that support recruitment, and those that provide content. 

What will happen to my data?

All information collected during interviews, and any audio and video recordings that are made during workshops, will be confidential. Additionally, any information that might identify you (such as your consent form) will be stored separately to this data. When the recordings of the workshops are transcribed, all information that identifies you or others will be removed so that the transcripts are anonymous. The transcripts will be kept for 10 years as required by the University of Plymouth’s ethics data policy. Any quotations that are used for presentations or publications will be anonymised to protect your identity. 
More information can be found in our research ethics policy. 

How can I register?



Call us on +44 1752 586550


 Print the participant registration form and return by:
  • Email:
  • Post: ICONIC Project, Room 111, Reynolds Building, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA.
For more information about the ICONIC project, you can contact the research team by email: or calling them on +44 1752 586550.