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Augmented book enhances the story with tactile sensations

Publishing

The Sensory Fiction project coming out of MIT has developed a harness that delivers haptic feedback at relevant points in the narrative.

The publishing industry is one that has been hit particularly hard by the advent of digital, but the technology can bring new experiences to reading. In the past we’ve seen Poland’s Elektrobiblioteka offer extra digital content when readers turn the page, and — hoping to enhance the emotional experience of reading — now the Sensory Fiction project coming out of MIT has developed a harness that delivers haptic feedback at relevant points in the narrative.

Created by students as part of the Science Fiction to Science Fabrication class, the initial prototype involves a specially-wired print version of James Tiptree Jr’s novella The Girl Who Was Plugged In. Each page features a small metallic ink dot that forms part of a circuit to determine where readers are in the story. The cover of the book is also studded with LEDs that change color to provide a visual ambience in line with the narrative. Readers also wear a harness, equipped with vibration pads to influence their heart rate, airbags that inflate to give the sensation of restriction or release, and heat strips to raise the readers’ temperature. Each sensory addition is designed to augment the emotions conveyed by the story. The video below shows the system in action:

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While some may decry the outsourcing of imagination to sensors and circuits, the experiment offers an experience that is different to traditional reading and could even help those with developmental disorders to work with extra emotional cues. Are there other ways wearable tech could offer new forms of tangible entertainment?

Email: heibeck@media.mit.edu

Website: www.media.mit.edu

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