Wearable technology is already on your face and wrist, and it’s popping up in some new way, shape or form seemingly every day. Now there’s even such a thing as a “wearable book.”
“Sensory Fiction,” a project by researchers Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope and Julie Legault of the MIT Media Lab, takes the reading experience into uncharted immersive territory with a combination of sensors and a type of motor called an actuator.
The Sensory Fiction storytelling experience involves the reader wearing a vest-like device that conveys physical sensations as he or she turns the page in the connected book. The “augmented” book’s cover is equipped with a sound system and an ambient lighting system of 150 LEDs that change to match the mood when the book senses the page has been turned.
The book then sends signals to the vest, where mechanisms such as a body compression system, heartbeat and shiver simulator, and localized body temperature control that engages preprogrammed responses, allowing the reader to feel physical sensations and emotions to enhance their reading experience.
The Sensory Fiction connected book and wearable experience might raise or lower body temperature depending on setting, such as speeding up the heartbeat simulator and raising the temperature if a character is falling in love, or lowering temperature while increasing pressure on the body if a character is in danger.
“Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images,” the researchers wrote in their report. “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.”
At the moment only one prototype book has been programmed: “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” by James Tiptree.
Photos of the Sensory Fiction experience are available on Flickr.