Researchers believe that reading 400 to 500 words per minutes would not only put you among the outstanding readers, but would actually bring you close to the human optimum. The reason is that our natural optical sensor – the retina – is limited by the number of “saccades” an eye can perform – these are rapid, ballistic eye movements used to rapidly refixate from one object to another. Right now, your eyes are moving sequentially from word to word and most of the time you spend reading is actually ‘wasted’ jumping around.
So neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene has demonstrated that if readers did not have to move and regularly accommodate their eyes on successive words from one side to the page to another, they could reach reading speeds as high as 1100 to 1600 words per minute. This prompted him to imagine that the “Rapid Serial Visual Presentation” of words could be a revolutionary mode of reading. RSVP has now been around for years and has proven to be successful, enabled by fairly simple tools such as web browser plugins.
Enter start-up company Spritz.
After working for nearly 3 years in “Stealth Mode” to perfect its reading methodology, Spritz is now lifting the lid on its app that promises to boost your reading speed using text-streaming technology.
Spritz has perfected RSVP technology by using something called a “redicle”, a text box that only takes up a small percentage of the screen. Words are shown in rapid succession, ranging from 250 words per minute (the average adult reading rate) to 500 words per minute, around a single ‘focal point’, so that you do not have to shift your gaze to see them. It is this technique, Spritz asserts, that will soon have you reading at twice the average speed — at least.
That ‘focal point’ is Spritz’ secret sauce. Indeed, in every word you read, there is an “Optimal Recognition Point” or ORP. This is also called a “fixation point.” The “fixation point” in every word is generally immediately to the left of the middle of a word, explains Kevin Larson, of Microsoft’s Advanced Reading Technologies team. As you read, your eyes hop from fixation point to fixation point, often skipping significantly shorter words.
“After your eyes find the ORP, your brain starts to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing,” Spritz explains on its website. Spritz indicates the ORP by making it red, and positions each word so that the ORP is at the same point, so your eyes don’t have to move. That’s what makes it different from RSVP speed reading, which just shows you words in rapid succession with no regard to the ORP. Here’s a graphic that shows how Spritz keeps your eyes still while reading:
At that rate you could read the average blog post under 60 seconds, all 223 pages of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in under 77 minutes, and “War and Peace” in less than 10 hours. You can have go at trying it yourself:
Here’s a line of text going by at 250 words per minute:
Now try the same thing at 350 words per minute:
And now try 500 words per minute:
Spritz is not the only system of the type. For instance the iPhone Velocity app has been working on the same principle. But Spritz commercial approach is to provide an API, which should allow 3rd parties to integrate it to their equipments such as phones, watches and all sorts of “wearables” – starting with the Samsung Gear 2 watch and Galaxy S5,
After all these technical consideration, there remains the question of whether people will adopt it. It clearly raises some questions on the frantic, ever-accelerating speed of our modern world, where everything can be made faster, better and more efficient. Some will ask if there isn’t some point when efficiency actually becomes counterproductive. Whether speeding through “War and Peace” in 10 hours kind of undermines the very purpose of reading such a weighty, ponderous book… Not to mention that if you look away for a split second, you’ve just missed a whole sentence. Whether apps like Spritz will transform reading a book into a session straight out of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. Or maybe it will simply find a relevant use in industrial domains where the speed of acquiring written information primes over appreciating the beauty of a text…
@zeronomics – Sydney – 3 March 2014