You don’t have to be a psychic to know that objects tell a story. If “object reading” is your objective, however, the “Reading Glove” by Joshua and Karen Tanenbaum, however, puts the gift of psychometry, quite literally, in the palm of your hands. The husband-and-wife duo, who specialize in interactive design, developed the glove as part of an immersive storytelling platform that they’ve dubbed the “Tangible Ubiquitous Narrative Environment” or TUNE. “We wanted to see what happened when we gave people a story that was embedded on real, physical objects that could be played with and moved around,” Karen told O’Reilly Radar on Wednesday.


Although the Tanenbaums envisioned an entire room that told a story as you explored it—”sort of like a haunted house, but intended to tell a specific narrative rather than just be spooky”—their budget led to a more modest version of that space: a tabletop, to be exact.

Using RFID tags, the Tanenbaums embedded a series of “artifacts” with story fragments for the glove to read.

Using radio-frequency ID (RFID) tags, the Tanenbaums embedded a series of “artifacts” with story fragments, with the glove playing the role of the scanner. By handing the objects, the “reader” is able to piece together a larger narrative, behaving more like a detective than a passive observer. “We’ve gotten some really interesting results out of it,” Karen said, “such as how people talk about a system that has intelligent components, how much they anthropomorphize it and how accurate their estimates of its ‘intelligence’ are.”

The result is a richer, more engaging storytelling experience, one that requires some measure of critical thinking. Despite their yen for technology, the Tanenbaums—steampunk enthusiasts both—prefer analog to digital books. “Despite making a wearable device called the Reading Glove, most of my reading processes are stuck firmly in the last century,” Karen said. “The power of technology as applied to art and reading is the connectivity that it can bring about. The interesting thing would be to bring that connectivity to the physical books, not to make the books themselves digital.”

+ Karen Tanenbaum

[Via O’Reilly Radar]