A new way to read

John Rentoul

spritz 300x237 A new way to readThis looks extraordinary. A gizmo called Spritz that reinvents reading, its inventors claim. We normally read at about 220 words per minute, but this software can get us up to 500 wpm quite easily (it seems to be true, you can try it yourself at the link), or faster.

Most of the time taken by reading, the Spritz people say, is your eyes moving from word to word. Spritz keeps your eyes focused on a single point in a 13-character window and streams single words aligned to that point.

It is weird to try, and we cannot know how useful it would be, but it is easy to see how it might work on mobiles, probably on top of text with some kind of pause, play, rewind function.

I was sceptical about whether it is eye movement that limits the speed at which we assimilate words: surely the brain processes words at a speed that then drives the eyes? But the Spritz people say comprehension and retention can be speeded up.

I came across it yesterday on Twitter, via Tom Standage, The Economist’s digital editor, and Ian Leslie, author of Born Liars. News of it is spreading across the internet faster than pictures of dogs trying to avoid baths. Andrew Sullivan has just picked up a (fairly sceptical) review by Meghan Neal of Motherboard.

The samples on the Spritz website, running short chunks of text at 250, 300, 350, 400 and 500 wpm, are limited. But I think it could be one of the big technology shifts of the next decade.

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  • Pacificweather

    You found a use for Twitter, John. OK I am convinced.

    What was interesting in the Spritz test was it was easier to read one word at a time at 500 wpm than at 250 or even 350. The hardest word was “10″ in the 250 wpm test but there was no equivalent in the 500 wpm sentences. It has some potential. Perhaps pagers will make a come back.

  • Ciaran Goggins

    Ideal for ZaNuLabour. Who needs small print like human rights?

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