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US researchers create wearable books that enhance story

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Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States have developed a wearable book that enables the readers to experience the characters’ feelings as they read the story.

The book, which has been created under a project dubbed sensory fiction, is covered in sensors and actuators and is hooked up to a vest.

The vest has a personal heating device to change the temperature of the readers’ skin as well as a compression system to make them feel tightness or loosening via airbags. It also alters vibrations to match the mood of the book.

The book itself possesses 150 LEDs to create ambient light, which changes based on the setting and mood of the story.

“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 localized temperature fluctuations” the MIT researchers noted.

The project was developed by Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope and Julie Legault at MIT’s media lab as part of the Science Fiction to Science Fabrication class.

The researchers used James Tiptree Jr’s Hugo award-winning novella The Girl Who Was Plugged In as their prototype story for creating the wearable book.

The novella was chosen because it displayed “an incredible range of settings and emotions,” the researchers said, adding, “The main protagonist experiences both deep love and ultimate despair.”

“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,” said Heibeck.

Meanwhile, some authors are doubtful about whether physical emotions could be as strong as those created in the minds of the readers.


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