Have you ever been so engrossed in a book that you could almost feel the characters’ emotions jumping off of the page? Well, that idea might be more real than you think thanks to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Researchers Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope and Julie Legault of MIT’s Media Lab invented a new way to experience books, which they’ve dubbed “Sensory Fiction.” Through a combination of networked sensors, Sensory Fiction turns the traditional empathetic reader experience into something more physical, further immersing the reader into the story.
The process involves a “wearable” book that will allow readers to experience the protagonist’s emotions through a vest. The vest will use sensors to determine which page of the book is currently being read. Those sensors will then trigger vibration patterns in the vest.
The vest allows the reader to feel the change in the protagonist’s physical and emotional states by giving off discrete feedback. Whether it’s a change in heart rate, constriction through air pressure bags, or even temperature fluctuations, the vest will allow the reader to physically feel what the protagonist is feeling. The vest even changes the vibrations to match the mood of the book.
The book itself has 150 LEDs that create ambient light, which change color depending on the mood and the setting of the book.
A science fiction novella, The Girl Who was Plugged in by James Tiptree Jr., was used as the prototype story for creating the wearable book. This book was chosen because it showcased a wide range of emotions and settings. In the story, the protagonist feels both ultimate despair and a deep sense of love, all the while experiencing the freedom of the Barcelona sunshine and the captivity of a dark, damp cellar.
With the eventual ability to add an element of physical realism to your story, it will be even harder to get your nose, and your body, out of a good book!