Mobile Technology

Spritz reader: Getting words into your brain faster

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
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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

25 comments
Mel Tisdale
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.
Jacob Jacobsen
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.
splatman
@Mel Tisdale, I agree. "Getting" all the words is not the same as "getting" the information and knowledge being conveyed.
Je Remy
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.
JGTinNJ
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?
DavidMills
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.
beergas
Agree with comments that this would be most annoying when deep, serious comprehension required. Prob ok for short trivial matters.
Timeswimmer
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?
Hervin Romney AIA
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.
Danock
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.
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