Sensory Fiction: a wearable book that lets you ‘feel’ the characters’ emotions

Sensory Fiction

Thought that books were dead, and that eReaders and smart devices were finally taking over? Hopefully this might convince you otherwise. By mixing technology and fiction, researchers at MIT have created a book that helps the reader feel the protagonist’s emotions by triggering vibrations, temperature and other sensory experiences.

By wearing a special vest and reading a book that has been fitted with a collection of sensors, the reader experiences sensations that aim to convey various types of relevant emotions. The vest is connected to a heartbeat and shiver simulator, a temperature control unit, and a compression unit. Among other things, the book is fitted with 150 LEDs that change colour to further fit the character’s mood.

The team explains: “Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations.”

From fitness trackers to smart clothing, wearable tech is being implemented in various ways and can either monitor the user or induce some form of sensory experience — from keeping up to date with your calorie count to Cadbury’s Joy-Jackets that react as you eat certain chocolate bars.

Created by Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope and Julie Legault from MIT’s Media Lab, the idea is to take storytelling to the next level. The team explains that fiction traditionally uses words and images to induce emotions and empathy. Yawn. Sensory Fiction, in the form of the “wearable” book, gives authors the tools to convey the plot, mood, and emotion on so many other exciting levels — truly creating immersive augmented storytelling.

For now the team uses the book The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree Jr because it “showcases an incredible range of settings and emotions. The main protagonist experiences both deep love and ultimate despair, the freedom of Barcelona sunshine and the captivity of a dark damp cellar.”

There was no mention of  the Fifty Shades of Grey version coming anytime soon.



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