Has a book ever made you cry? It's more rare than losing it at a movie for sure. All a fiction writer that's trying to pull on your heartstrings has to work with are the 26 letters in the alphabet, a healthy imagination, and basic human empathy. But that probably won't be the case for the books of the future.
Researchers at MIT's Media Lab have created a wearable, augmented book that tries to physically make you feel the characters' feelings as you read the story. The project's called Sensory Fiction. It's a book covered in sensors and actuators and hooked up to a strappy vest type thing you wear while reading. As the plot unfolds, the gadget-book produces physical sensations to mimic the characters' emotions.
Is the protagonist depressed? One hundred LED lights on the book cover will adjust to create ambient lighting to reflect the mood. Scared? Air pressure bags in the wearable vest will make it constrict and feel tighter. Excited? Vibration patterns that influence your heart rate can make it beat faster. Embarrassed? A heating device on the vest changes the temperature of your skin.
Augmented stories are the inevitable evolution of reading now that have books gone electronic. Disney's playing around with the concept too, developing augmented reality books with digital imagery that interacts with tangible objects—bringing books "to life" in a virtual-physical hybrid way. I suppose anything that encourages people to actually read is worth exploring. But don't all these bells and whistles ruin the magic of a well-written piece of prose?