By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated March 08, 2014.
Feel like you have too much to read? No worries. There's an app for that. The new Spritz app promises to make you into a speed reader by displaying content one word at time, oriented around a centerpoint for each word.
On its Web site, the company says that the "time consuming part of reading lies mainly in the actual eye movements from word to word and sentence to sentence," not to the mention the fact that traditional reading formats take up a lot of physical screen space on mobile devices like smartphones.
Spritz eliminates the clunky page, and shows only a window of 13 characters. Thirteen characters are used because the human eye can focus on about that number at one time. Longer words are broken up.
We show the Spritz app on a smartwatch here, and a quick visit to the Spritz website shows how little room the reading app occupies on a smartphone screen. Curious readers can try the app at www.spritzinc.com.
Assembling a Sentence
The Boston-based company said that research shows that when a person is reading, his eyes look for a certain point within each word, which Spritz calls the Optimal Recognition Point or ORP. The ORP is in the center of a short word, such as a three-letter word, but it shifts to the left of center as the length of the word increases.
The brain starts interpreting the word once the eyes have found the ORP. For every new word, the eyes move, seeking out the next ORP for the next word. When punctuation is encountered, the brain assembles the words into a coherent sentence.
Because of this moving around, the company said, only about 20 percent of one's time is spent processing content, while the rest deals with moving between words and finding the next ORP.
Spritz displays words with the ORP of the word always in the same place on the screen, indicated by a colored letter in the word, so the user can read without moving his eyes. The company said this increases reading speed because it better utilizes the brain's processing time. Additionally, research indicates that a word is recognized as one item, based on shape, form and format, not characters. Spritz says its technique can increase reading speeds to 1,000 words or more a minute, compared to a normal 220.
Of course, this is not the first attempt to increase reading times for information-overloaded users. Other techniques include skimming, learning to avoid speaking the words inside your head, or taking in a full page in a mental snapshot. The company acknowledges that these techniques can be effective, but they require extensive training and practice. On the other hand, it said, you can learn "spritzing" -- a German word meaning "spraying" -- in under five minutes and you won't need to practice continually.
In addition to enabling faster reading, Spritz notes that displaying no more than 13-characters at one time saves screen space, which is in short supply for most mobile devices. This technique might be useful, for instance, for reading a novel on a smart watch.
Spritz also said it is currently looking for iOS, Android, and Backend developers to join its team in its Salt Lake City offices.