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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
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
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
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
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

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

5 Photos
/ art technology MIT Sensory Fiction felix heibeck alexis hope julie legaul
A Slower Speed of Light
Imagine breakfast. Pulling your spoon to your mouth, you see it shifts colours from silver to blue. Moving away it shifts to red.
If that’s the case, fear not, you’re at a Slower Speed of Light. The video game of the same name was developed at MIT and it simulates Einstein’s theory of special relativity but with the speed of light down-shifted to about a running speed.
If you’re wondering why that’s interesting, all it takes is a look at the game. The visuals are complex. As you move, surrounding objects change colours and can even start to emit light. It’s a psychedelic experience that teaches basic - if hard to conceptualize - physical laws, while exploring deep realities about colour and light. Guess what: they’re all relative!
Gerd Kortemeyer owns the game, and is an Associate Professor of Physics Education at Michigan State University:
"There’s beauty in relativity. You could look at relativity, and say it’s weird, it’s difficult, it’s only a thing for geniuses - you know you hear all these kinds of notions of what relativity is like - but actually, relativity is a very elegant and beautiful thing. And yes, much of the beauty is in the math and that is a little bit hard to convey. But other parts, if you move them to a human level, those aspects become accessible."
Kortemeyer was inspired in part by George Garmow’s Mr Tompkins in Wonderland illustrated book series in which Mr Tompkins dreams worlds where physics is all out of balance. Kortemeyer thought a video game would express these worlds better than images, while correcting inaccuracies in the books.
"It’s all about relative motion. I mean, it’s called relativity, so it’s about relative motion. You only notice these things when things are in motion. You can’t really make a snapshot of this, it wouldn’t convey the message," said Kortemeyer.
The game works off an open-source physics engine that accurately represents light from the infrared spectrum up to ultraviolet. The games themselves are simple: move around the environment and complete basic quests, like collect x number of floating orbs.
The more you move the more psychedelic it becomes. For example, hot objects will start to shine bright like a bulb.
It’s a cool way of understanding the deep realities of the universe.
"The idea of the game was: let’s play around - kids learn by playing - and make a game in which the speed of light is slow and see if people can get an intuition about it. Let’s see if people can start to feel native and start to function in a world like this. Let’s see if people can lose some of their fear of physics, and maybe lose some of that sense that this is all so weird," said Kortemeyer.
- Tomek Sysak

A Slower Speed of Light

Imagine breakfast. Pulling your spoon to your mouth, you see it shifts colours from silver to blue. Moving away it shifts to red.

If that’s the case, fear not, you’re at a Slower Speed of Light. The video game of the same name was developed at MIT and it simulates Einstein’s theory of special relativity but with the speed of light down-shifted to about a running speed.

If you’re wondering why that’s interesting, all it takes is a look at the game. The visuals are complex. As you move, surrounding objects change colours and can even start to emit light. It’s a psychedelic experience that teaches basic - if hard to conceptualize - physical laws, while exploring deep realities about colour and light. Guess what: they’re all relative!

Gerd Kortemeyer owns the game, and is an Associate Professor of Physics Education at Michigan State University:

"There’s beauty in relativity. You could look at relativity, and say it’s weird, it’s difficult, it’s only a thing for geniuses - you know you hear all these kinds of notions of what relativity is like - but actually, relativity is a very elegant and beautiful thing. And yes, much of the beauty is in the math and that is a little bit hard to convey. But other parts, if you move them to a human level, those aspects become accessible."

Kortemeyer was inspired in part by George Garmow’s Mr Tompkins in Wonderland illustrated book series in which Mr Tompkins dreams worlds where physics is all out of balance. Kortemeyer thought a video game would express these worlds better than images, while correcting inaccuracies in the books.

"It’s all about relative motion. I mean, it’s called relativity, so it’s about relative motion. You only notice these things when things are in motion. You can’t really make a snapshot of this, it wouldn’t convey the message," said Kortemeyer.

The game works off an open-source physics engine that accurately represents light from the infrared spectrum up to ultraviolet. The games themselves are simple: move around the environment and complete basic quests, like collect x number of floating orbs.

The more you move the more psychedelic it becomes. For example, hot objects will start to shine bright like a bulb.

It’s a cool way of understanding the deep realities of the universe.

"The idea of the game was: let’s play around - kids learn by playing - and make a game in which the speed of light is slow and see if people can get an intuition about it. Let’s see if people can start to feel native and start to function in a world like this. Let’s see if people can lose some of their fear of physics, and maybe lose some of that sense that this is all so weird," said Kortemeyer.

- Tomek Sysak

art science relativity Einstein a slower speed of light MIT gerd kortemeyer Tomek sysak
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders
Gyorgy Kepes
György Kepes (1906 – 2001) was an Hungarian-born artist, professor, author and aesthetic theorist whose work contributed significantly to theories in art and design education in the latter half of the 20th century.
     Along with being a keen experimental artist and instructor, Kepes was also a prolific writer, publishing important books on aesthetics and design including his acclaimed Language of Vision (1944), a work in which Kepes looked to visual art as “an invaluable educational medium.” After working at the New Bauhaus in Chicago as well as Brooklyn College, Kepes moved to teach at MIT where he founded what is now known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Here, he was able to draw from exciting, new technological resources for his art practice; x-ray machines, stroboscopic photography, telescopes, sonar and radar graphing systems and other technology helped Kepes create, define, and challenge the “scientific aesthetic.” These photographs from his body of work show the range of Kepes’s artistic experimentation and the creative potential of these new advances in art, media, and science.
For more information on the life and work of György Kepes, check out this NYT article, the MIT website, and this book.
- Erin Saunders

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