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STRANGE: The wearable book – fiction with feeling

The latest in obscure inventions comes in the form of a wearable book. A what? How can you wear a book? My thoughts exactly

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have created a book that allows readers to physically feel the character’s emotions as you read. In a project they created, called ‘Sensory Fiction,’ the team created a prototype book covered in sensors and actuators and hooked it up to a vest that the reader wears.


The prototype story used was James Tiptree Junior’s short-story, ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In,’ which follows protagonist P Burke through her life with pituitary dystrophy and must experience life through an avatar. This book was chosen due to it’s wide array of emotions.

The book senses which page the reader is on and produces physical sensations from detecting the characters’ emotions. For example, if the protagonist in the book is afraid, the air pressure bags in the reader’s vest will constrict to make the reader’s chest feel tighter. For feelings of excitement, the vest vibrates to cause the reader’s heart to beat faster. For sadness, the LED lights on the outside of the book will reflect an ambient color. If the protagonist is embarrassed, a heating device changes the temperature of your skin.

sensory vest

But does this device really reflect the same amount of emotion we feel inside our mind?

Adam Roberts, a science fiction writer, is skeptical of the idea and compares it to the likes of toddler books that have sound effects and other sensory devices.

Yet, researcher Felix Heibeck had an opposing view on the project. ‘While the project explores new ways of reading with digital augmentations, this is not a product idea but rather an exploration in the context of science fiction stories,’ he says.

The minds behind this new invention wrote that 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,’ the researchers said. ‘These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.’

Tell us: What do you think of this new concept? Would you ‘read’ a wearable book?

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