Some might say that if you aren’t experiencing the atmosphere of a story while you’re reading, the author hasn’t done her job. But we’ve all read a book that we loved so much, we wished we could experience more of it, feel as if we were actually a part of the story as it was happening. That’s now possible with ‘Sensory Fiction,’ a digitally-augmented prototype book that comes with a sense-stimulating harness that’ll squeeze you or change your body temperature at the right moments.
Much like 4D films, which let you feel and smell the plot with moving seats and other sensory experiences, ‘Sensory Fiction’ makes the body a more active part of the process of taking in a story. Created by students at the MIT Media Lab for a class called ‘Science Fiction to Science Fabrication,’ the book and harness set aims to bring more excitement to the average written story.
It works through a combination of networked sensors and actuators. The book senses which page the reader is on to flash LED lights or play certain sounds that go along with that part of the plot. Meanwhile, the wearable component senses the reader’s heart rate and offers a gentle squeeze, vibration, changing temperatures and other forms of physical feedback.
The story selected for the prototype, ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’ by James Tiptree, was chosen because it showcases a wide range of emotions in a variety of environments, providing lots of opportunities for those sensory ‘extras.’ Can you imagine wearing one of these while reading a particularly scary horror story?