A Boston-based startup Spritz has recently been garnering a lot of attention for their new speed-reading app. Having spent the last three years in stealth-mode, testing their product, they finally released some demos last week to widespread acclaim and have announced that it will be bundled with the Samsung S5. Although Spritz is not yet available, this announcement has led to the creation of an open-source copy for Google Chrome. This technology stands to greatly improve our comprehension when reading at high speeds.
Spritz performs Rapid-Sequence Visual Presentation (RSVP). This means it flashes words up on the screen at 500-1000 wpm so your eyes don't have to move to read the text. This is much faster than an ordinary reading speed (200-400wpm). Most RSVP programs feel worse than skimming to me - worse than just not reading every word. The wave-mode on Textcelerator is an exception, and my comprehension there feels slightly better, but not by enough to make it worth using. But Spritz blows the other RSVPs right out of the water. The important advantages are:
- Highlighting a letter in red to help you focus
- Always putting a letter in the focal region, and never putting a space where you were focussing before, which can throw you out of your rhythm.
- Aligning words properly - the optimal focal point is rarely the middle of the word and is often slightly to the left, as shown below.
Of course, it's easy to make a program to render words in this fashion, and so it is no surprise that an open-source counterpart Readline was produced yesterday, barely a week since the initial Spritz announcement. It doesn't yet make the words appear in perfect time, but maybe an app that does will arise soon. If Spritz is anywhere near as useful as they hope (their insane stated goal is for 15% of the world's text to be read by this method by 2016) then these copies are bound to improve also. It will be interesting to see how their business model responds to these copies, and how RSVP interacts with the trend toward mobile computing.
Try their demo. Get Readline! There appear to be other open source versions on the way. Of particular note, OpenSpritz Android does not yet work - it still displays the html code - but I will closely watch this space!