Creating Empathy: New Project Out of MIT Allows Readers to Feel What They See
Many of us have dove into a book and had the experience of feeling what the character you’re reading is going through. The trademark of a good writer is being able to engulf the reader with so much detail and such an interesting storyline that they don’t want to put the book down. Sensory fiction has taken that experience to a brand new, digital, and technologically advanced level. MIT researchers Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, and Julie Legaul have successfully created and designed the first ‘sensory fiction’ book and body apparatus.
With their invention, the reader of a book can not only empathize mentally, but also physically feel and experience what the characters in the book are feeling. Sensory fiction accomplishes this with a series of LED lights that change colour according to the mood described, a compression system that allows the reader to feel tension, and a heating device that changes the temperature of the skin. With the ability to physically impose emotions and feelings on the readers, this MIT project opens an even wider creative door for authors, who were in the past limited to printed words. As the user and reader, cuddling up with a new book will now make the imaginary feel more like reality.
Watch the video Sensory Fiction on Vimeo.
- Lee Jones
Empathy, a totally physical thing reasonably communicated by electrified straps on a body.
I like the exploration of multiple types of communication, but the assumptions that color, compression, and temperature 1) communicate affective states, being connected with emotions and experience of human readers in straightforward and immediate ways and 2) perform this communication more efficiently and effectively than words on the page… well, the ideologies about communication that support those assumptions seem to me the most fascinating of all.
EDIT: and wow, the comments on the vimeo are very critical, but not necessarily for the reasons I’d expect. For example, someone retitles it: “The Girl With Absolutely No Imagination” — which implies the same kind of ideology of communication that the piece itself does.