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Spritz reader: Getting words into your brain faster

By

March 4, 2014

According to Boston-based startup Spritz, you spend as little as 20 percent of your readin...

According to Boston-based startup Spritz, you spend as little as 20 percent of your reading time actually taking in the words you’re looking at

Static blocks of text like the one you’re looking at now are an antiquated and inefficient way to get words into your head. That’s the contention of Boston-based startup Spritz, which has developed a speed-reading text box that shows no more than 13 characters at a time. The Spritz box flashes words at you in quick succession so you don’t have to move your eyes around a page, and in my very quick testing it allowed me to read at more than double my usual reading pace. Spritz has teamed up with Samsung to integrate its speed reading functionality with the upcoming Galaxy S5 smartphone.

The written word, after 8,000 or so years, is still an extremely effective way to get a message from one mind into the minds of others. But even with the advent of the digital age and decades of usability work, font and layout development, we’re still nowhere near optimal efficiency with it yet.

Take this article – I’ve written it in easily digestible chunks, and we’ve presented it in nice, thin, 10 to 14 word columns that should make it easy to scan. But pay attention to what your eyes are doing while you try to read it. Chances are, even if you’re a quick reader, your eyes are jumping around all over the place.

In fact, according to Boston-based startup Spritz, you spend as little as 20 percent of your reading time actually taking in the words you’re looking at, and as much as 80 percent physically moving your eyes around to find the right spot to read each word from. So, the Spritz team decided, why not eliminate that time altogether?

The Spritz reader is a simple, small box that streams text at the reader, one word at a time. The words are presented in a large, very reader-friendly font, and centered around the "optimal recognition point" of each word. In fact, the box will only display a maximum of 13 characters, so larger words are broken up.

What’s really interesting is just how quickly this system can pipe information into your brain. I did a couple of online reading speed tests and found my average reading speed for regular blocks of text is around 330-350 words per minute. But I can comfortably follow a Spritz box at up to 500 words per minute without missing much, losing concentration or feeling any kind of eye strain. In short stints I can follow 800 words per minute, and the team says it’s easy to train yourself to go faster and retain more.

Try it yourself. Here’s 250 words per minute:

...
350 words per minute:

...
500 words per minute:

...
Spritz claims that information retention rates on "spritzed" content are equal to or higher than that of traditional text block reading, and that some of its testers are now comfortably ingesting content at 1000 words per minute with no loss of information retention. That’s Tolstoy’s 1,440 page behemoth War and Peace dispatched in a single 10 hour sitting, if you had the concentration for it, or Stieg Larsson's Girl with a Dragon Tattoo in two and a bit hours.

Spritz is also clearly developed to excel on mobile and handheld reading devices, and as such, the company has announced that Spritz will make its mobile debut on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 release. Smartwatch and Google glass-type implementations are also on the radar.

The mobile angle will have to be strong as there are numerous free tools for desktop browsers that can replicate a similar reading experience for free. If you’re using a Chrome browser, check out Spreed as an example.

Perhaps the most significant move for Spritz will be bringing this speed reading technology to bear on your Android e-book library. Anything that can help me get through my reading backlog quicker will be most welcome!

Product page: Spritz

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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25 Comments

I hope that this technology does not sacrifice meaning for the sake of hitting some arbitrary reading speed. Not widely recognised is the fact that the English verb operates under an 'exclusive OR' decision condition. Verbs can relate to the 'past' or not the past - called the 'non-past.' If this does not match the verb's tense, of which there are only two, the 'past' and the 'non-past,' then there is a subliminal message as to how the writer wishes the reader to regard the verb.

For example, Bob Seger has a song, 'Against the Wind.' in which is found the following: "I wish I did not now, what I did not know then." Both verbs have the same words, but, thanks to the Ex-Or decision, their meaning is opposite. It is essential that children absorb that mechanism, otherwise they will learn to answer the question: "Could you open the door?" said by someone with their arms full, with: "Not until I was tall enough."

Reading words in isolation might just prove harmful to the learning process..

Secondly, there is the question of non-fiction. Sometimes one has to go over the same text again slowly in order to absorb the information that is being presented. I think I would get cross with having to manage the system so that I can go over what I want to re-read and not what the system thinks I want to re-read. Furthermore, sometimes I wish to compare texts from different parts of the page, or even the book, in order to cross-check. This could lead to having the need for two Kindles, or whatever e-reader one is using.

In summary, o,k. for adults accessing fiction, or text messages, but otherwise, it is an unwanted solution looking for an imagined problem.

Mel Tisdale
5th March, 2014 @ 01:57 am PST

If the one word window box could be in conjunction with a window containing the paragraph being read at the time (maybe with the possibility to zoom in and out), then it would be easy to jump back and forth in the text by simply pointing. I hope to be able to beta-test this service.

Jacob Jacobsen
5th March, 2014 @ 03:08 am PST

@Mel Tisdale, I agree. "Getting" all the words is not the same as "getting" the information and knowledge being conveyed.

splatman
5th March, 2014 @ 04:54 am PST

Wordflashreader (amongst others) is already available.

http://wordflashreader.sourceforge.net/#overview

Its a free download - and having had a quick try it does seem to really work. Not so much reading as just letting it register.

Je Remy
5th March, 2014 @ 07:38 am PST

It would not be appropriate for situations in which one would want to linger on a writer's way of saying things, but for getting information into the brain it should be fine. Would it not be even faster if phrases were shot at you rather than individual words?

JGTinNJ
5th March, 2014 @ 08:28 am PST

I think this is a very good idea for many people, but I personally read at more than 1000 words a minute already, have since I was in middle school, so I doubt it would help readers who are fast already. But, I think they should find out by including fast readers in their study groups. For example, for fast readers, I do NOT think it will help to break up long words - I found this significantly slowed my reading - so there should be an option not to do that in any commercial version.

DavidMills
5th March, 2014 @ 08:34 am PST

Agree with comments that this would be most annoying when deep, serious comprehension required. Prob ok for short trivial matters.

beergas
5th March, 2014 @ 08:42 am PST

I'm concerned about the eyes not getting enough exercise if you are looking straight ahead during the entire read, rather than moving across the page from left to right and from top to bottom. What is there to compensate for this?

Timeswimmer
5th March, 2014 @ 09:04 am PST

There is already speedreading, which President JFK used for reading James Bond books and who knows what else. Electronics allow Spritz (gimmick?) and other devices to make unnecessary the brain and eye muscle efforts that went into speedreading. And there will be more such devices, methods, systems, and software programs. Surely, it will be worthwhile to many, and perhaps detrimental to others. The collective balance in human value will be up to us.

Hervin Romney AIA
5th March, 2014 @ 09:08 am PST

For Information: I read entire paragraphs at a time when I'm scanning a page for relevant information--this would hinder me.

For Fiction: A modest and variable rate of reading is the point of fiction reading, right? It's a scenic journey, not a race.

Perhaps this could be useful for hard-core info retention--since you have to focus your whole attention not to miss a word.

Danock
5th March, 2014 @ 09:47 am PST

Brilliant.

Art Toegemann
5th March, 2014 @ 10:32 am PST

It is a treadmill reading for the eyes. Enjoying the resonance may become antiquated.

- Your eye muscles and neck muscles will both stiffen, adding more to the modern day 'office syndromes'.

- The 'inefficient' speed in the traditional reading allows us to think while reading.

- Depending on the speed, can't they send us some subliminal messages as well? The ads on the net are already annoying enough, and I hate to see the day when we will be bombarded with subliminal ads such as brand recognition and recommendations based on our taste.

kamaaina
5th March, 2014 @ 11:19 am PST

Very interesting read. I foresee that in less than 5 years, we will all be using these-pretty convincing article-and example.

However, I would like to see some testing of the effects of using this technology full time. Are there unforeseen side effects?

Be nice if we can use a precautionary principle here and not dive into a technology that has long term impacts that get buried by profits.

ADVENTUREMUFFIN
5th March, 2014 @ 09:35 pm PST

I'm not sure that faster reading leads to worse reading comprehension. Is there anything to suggest this is the case or is everyone guessing that this would happen?

Perhaps by reading faster the sentences and ideas flow better overall, leading to better understanding? Is there ever a case where someone who struggles to read fast also has perfectly good understanding? From what I've seen (which, I'll admit, is limited) those that don't read well and read slowly also have trouble understanding what they've read.

Finally, nothing says you can't pause and think about what was read. I do this even when I'm marathon reading. Those of us that like to think about what we've read a bit deeper can continue to do so.

Martin Grondin
6th March, 2014 @ 07:13 am PST

This technique is great for fast-paced choose-your-own-adventure-style games: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wolfbutler.DiamondFind

Christian DeWolf
6th March, 2014 @ 12:29 pm PST

The viewer facing camera in most mobile devices could be used to cue the reader by watching eye motion. Shifting the eyes to the left by varying degrees could cause Spritz to backup in the text.

Can't wait to get it for my various reading devices and I hope Amazon makes it a feature of the Kindle reader app.

voxelman
6th March, 2014 @ 05:52 pm PST

Neat. Really neat actually.

I used to read a lot faster (8k) than I do now (500). Reading college math, chemistry, and physics texts put a real brake on reading speed. I have not been able to recover even when just reading casual literature.

Following suggestions of several commentators above I could see a version with a thumb slider control that could increase or decrease the display speed and options for number of characters to display at one time. Having an overview of what you are reading (using a larger screen) with options to navigate, highlight, and add notes would be very useful.

An auto pause feature using a tracking camera for when you blink or look away would also be a nice/necessary function.

WordFlashReader has a lot of these features. Requires a keyboard?

The more I think about this the more I like it. E-reader, smart phone versions could be very useful.

Your mind can do amazing things regarding word recognition. It will read words with the letters scrambled as quickly or almost as quickly as words with letters in the correct order. Your mind can also play tricks, and miss or skip important words when anticipating what is going to be read.

I wonder how this technology will fare during extended reading periods.

I think I would spend money on a well developed, full featured, cross application version.

Intellcity
6th March, 2014 @ 09:01 pm PST

This 'app' has been around since at least the '70s having been developed by DARPA as a crisis management tool.

Tim Whisler
7th March, 2014 @ 06:06 am PST

I can see how this might be useful in certain situations. However, I'm a proofreader and it took me three passes at 350 wpm to realize they were using "your" instead of "you're".

McDunno
7th March, 2014 @ 09:26 am PST

Really like the idea.

Need to add a delay factor in proportion to the popularity and length of the word. So if I've never seen a word before and it's 13 chars long, it lingers a little longer then "it" or "the". The fix speed per word is not effective enough.

Ben Yehooda
7th March, 2014 @ 11:49 am PST

I hope the future app allows slower reading speeds too. My young son, who normally has a hard time reading was doing pretty well at 250 wpd rate, but a somewhat slower rate would have been much better for him. Using Spritz he seemed to be reading much better than without it.

Also, it would be helpful if the app could be used to read text on the Internet and in conjunction with eBooks. That would give both him and me a large set of reading material.

Craig2014
7th March, 2014 @ 01:46 pm PST

I actually invented Flash Reader (http://flashreaderapp.com) back in 2010. It is, as far as I know, the first speed reader on iOS and the first speed reader that I knew of, as I came up with the idea of showing one word at a time at user set speed (words per minute). This has spiralled to several clones and similar speed readers, but I'm just pointing out that I was there first. At the moment, Flash Reader also boasts unrivalled document format support, with even more formats and new ways to read coming in the upcoming updates.

Pauli 'Dids' Jokela
8th March, 2014 @ 06:32 am PST

@ McDunno

'Your' is correct.

It says "...your current spritzing speed is 350WPM"

Matrix Key Systems
9th March, 2014 @ 10:48 pm PDT

I have no problem reading about 1600 words per minute if the words is presented one by one at a screen. But when reading a book for example, most of the time is used to move the eyes along the lines, then the speed is slowed to about 400 wpm.

Trond Zaphirax
14th March, 2014 @ 02:09 am PDT

I liked the 350 words but 500 words were too fast.

Coca
21st March, 2014 @ 03:11 pm PDT
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