Whoa! This book is tingly!

sense1

MIT Lab

Imagine slipping on a special vest before curling up with a good book. The vest senses your reactions to the protagonist in the story and gives you goosebumps, or startles you.

This is a real thing now.

Welcome to the future. It is here.

A student project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has resulted in a vest they call Sensory Fiction. The idea came as a result of research that shows that reading a novel can trick your brain into thinking you’re actually experiencing what is happening in the book.

Sensory Fiction is “a new means of conveying plot, mood and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination.” according to the project website.

sense2

MIT Lab

More from the project website:

“Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images.  By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the Sensory Fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.

sense4

MIT Lab

To explore this idea, we created a connected book and wearable. The ‘augmented’ book portrays the scenery and sets the mood, and the wearable allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions.

The book cover animates to reflect the book’s changing atmosphere, while certain passages trigger vibration patterns.”

sense3

MIT Lab

Other student projects included a robotic arm similar to one from “Star Wars” and a version of Ice-9 from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle.”

Check out how it works in the video below:

SENSORY FICTION from Felix on Vimeo.

So what do you think? Would you like to wear this vest? Or use your imagination?

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Comments 20

  1. Very interesting. But I wouldn’t want to wear this while reading a novel version of Rocky (having my body pummeled by a pro boxer) or Back to the Future (getting zapped by a bolt of lightning)! 🙂

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  2. Wow…I’m not sure if I’d want to try that or not… I wonder how that would “zap” you during a Harry Potter book? Or a Stephen King novel! Bram Stoker’s Dracula….Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein….Abbot & Costello Meet the Mummy…oh wait, that last one’s a movie.

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  3. Great post, Karla. I’d never heard of this before. When I read a really great story, I usually get all the emotion I need. Can’t imagine wearing this while reading Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” Yikes! So, while this new device may create a more “virtual journey” for readers, I’ll stick with my imagination! 🙂

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      Exactly, Meghan! I think nothing can beat the imagination. Ever. Especially as a writer when our imaginations are full-color vivid. But like you, I’d be curious to try it at least once!

  4. Wow! One of the things so special about reading fiction is that it’s
    pictured individually by each person who reads it. I don’t think
    I need one of those sensory thingies to get the most out of reading.
    I think it would be better suited for video games or movies. Then
    again, I used to think cell phones and microwave ovens were
    stupid. Okay, hopefully you won’t count back how many years
    that could be. 🙂

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