To convey emotions and feelings through literary devices is the goal of most writers – so what does an immersive physical experience do to literature if those feelings suddenly were induced by wearable sensors and actuators rather than emotional analogies? That’s the question that a team at MIT Media Lab wanted to know and they created a book and accompanying literary vest to test it.

Our prototype story, ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’ by James Tiptree showcases an incredible range of settings and emotions. The main protagonist experiences both deep love and ultimate despair, the freedom of Barcelona sunshine and the captivity of a dark damp cellar.

Readers who want to experience the narrative can strap on the vest, experience the book’s changes in lighting with its 150 programmable LED bulbs, hear audio, change body temperature with the vest’s personal heating unit, feel vibration to increase or decrease heart rate, and even feel tightness with the vest’s compression system. This definitely brings the literal to the literary.