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Small Designs Magazine

Small Designs Magazine

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wearable book lets readers feel the fiction

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a "wearable" book which allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s emotions.
Using a combination of sensors, the book senses which page the reader is on and triggers vibration patterns through a special vest.
"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" the researchers said.
The vest contains a personal heating device to change skin temperature and a compression system to convey tightness or loosening through airbags.
The vest also changes vibrations to match the mood of the book.

The book itself has 150 LEDs to create ambient light which changes depending on the setting and mood of the book.
The project, dubbed "Sensory Fiction", was created by Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, Julie Legault at MIT's Media Lab.
It was one of the projects created in the Science Fiction to Science Fabrication class.

The researchers used a science fiction novella, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree Jr, as their prototype story for creating the wearable book.
They chose it 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."
Describing their project, the researchers wrote: "Sensory fiction is about new ways of experiencing and creating stories.
"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.
"To explore this idea, we created a connected book and wearable [vest]. The ‘augmented’ book portrays the scenery and sets the mood, and the wearable [vest] allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions."

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