Over the past 50 years, wind, water, fog, 3D, and even Smell-O-Vision have graced our theaters in the name of cinematic enhancement. How then, has the humble book remained largely unchanged for centuries? That question could soon be moot, as researchers at MIT's Media Lab have developed a new way to experience the printed word, something that they call "Sensory Fiction."
First spotted by Designboom, the concept involves wearing a vest covered in sensors and actuators that uses vibration to simulate shivering or an increased heart rate; local heating to change your skin temperature; and pressure from airbags to convey tightness and loosening. This vest is paired with a book, which also has LEDs to create ambient lighting. No ordinary book, this version of the award-winning sci-fi novella The Girl Who Was Plugged In can sense what page you're currently reading, and feed that information to a control unit mounted on the back of the vest to create vibration, pressure, or heat in sync with story beats.
Just reading The Girl Who Was Plugged In should be enough to provoke an emotional response from most, but the researchers hope the vest-and-book combo can enhance a reader's experience through external stimuli. As Sensory Fiction is only in prototype form, there's no telling if the team has achieved its lofty goal yet, but, as a concept, it at least poses some interesting questions as to the future of immersive storytelling.