People are getting excited about Spritz, a new questionably-named speed-reading app that promises readers the ability to read up to 1,000 words per minute — about four times as many words as the average American reads. It even sort of has a celebrity (investor) endorsement.
Spritz works by showing one word on a small screen at a time, allowing you to select language and speed (the demo gives options from 250 words per minute to 600 wpm, at 50 wpm intervals) before scrolling through text. You can up the wpm rate as you learn how to Spritz, a process that takes about five minutes, per the developers. The letters in each word are in black font, except for one key letter which is in red.
The app will come as a preinstalled email app on Samsung devices in April, but creators say they've been working in "stealth mode," figuring out how to make mobile users more efficient readers. They found that we're slowed down by unnecessary eye movements. We can comprehend as well just by focusing our sight onto a single, left-of-center letter in each word. Spritz will help us do just that, as they explain:
For each word, the eye seeks a certain point within the word, which we call the “Optimal Recognition Point” or ORP. After your eyes find the ORP, your brain starts to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing. With each new word, your eyes move, called a “saccade”, and then your eyes seek out the ORP for that word. Once the ORP is found, processing the word for meaning and context occurs and your eyes move to the next word.
Basically, they say, we don't need to read a word from left to right to understand its meaning. And when we do, we waste time;
When reading, only around 20% of your time is spent processing content. The remaining 80% is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word and scanning for the next ORP.
The app's co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman says Spritz is probably best used for shorter messages:
As smart devices continue to change shape and become increasingly smaller, Spritz enables users to read comfortably and conveniently. Our technology can be used to read emails, text messages, social media streams, maps or web content and can be integrated onto any mobile device – the options are almost limitless. Reading has never been easier, more efficient or more effective.
But that doesn't mean the app isn't "working with some pretty big players in [the] field" of ebooks, so that "Atlas Shrugged in a day?" can get the "You betcha!" answer promised in the company's FAQ section. Spritz knock-off OpenSpritz is already offering the option of Spritzing everything on the Internet, in the form of a "free speed reading bookmarklet." Or you can check out a similar, more legitimate app by the San Francisco Chronicle which allows you to Spritz an article about sharks.
Though the overwhelming response to the app has been positive, some maintain reservations about this kind of reading:
New tech called Spritz claims its users will be able to read at 1000 wpm. The demo hurt my head: http://t.co/CU89OXgsZh— Haley BeMiller (@haleybeemzler) March 10, 2014
We wonder whether apps like Spritz will affect our ability to actually retain information from what we read (though Spritz assures us that retention levels are up to par) while also remembering basic writing tools like, you know, spelling and grammar. Speed reading expert Greg Tyndall, also sees some limitations to the app, telling the Telegraph that he thinks "[Spritz] could be incredible for people who need to speed-read documents quickly, but it doesn’t give you techniques you can use offline at all – and sometimes we do still need to read a hard copy." Which is true, for now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.