Reading 2.0: There’s an app for that

posted at 5:31 pm on March 8, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

This has apparently been in development for a while now, but the first public offering of it caught my attention this morning. (Warning: this is essentially non-political, but the technology could absolutely affect how we all process and deliver information if it’s viable.) The concept is that you might be able – with a little practice – to use a new piece of technology to read anywhere from 250 to 1,000 words per minute without losing reading comprehension. If that sounds too good to be true.. well, maybe it is. But that’s the claim of Spritz.

If you constantly have a big stack of books and magazines on your bedside table, you might have at some point wished you were able to read a little bit faster. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Spritz, a new app making its debut on Samsung devices, promises to help you read 250 to 1,000 words per minute. To put that in perspective, at 1,000 words per minute, you’d be able to read an entire Harry Potter novel in a little over an hour.

So how does Spritz work? The technology “removes the inconvenience of scrolling, swiping, squinting and pinching to read on your devices by streaming individual words, one by one, at the user’s desired speed,” according to the Boston-based startup. Developed and tested for more than three years, the technology allows the brain to focus on each word, promoting faster reading and higher information retention.

Apparently, the basic idea is that the most effort which goes into reading is the repetitive eye motion involved; scanning from side to side on the page or up and down the screen. Spritz purports to eliminate that time and effort on the part of your brain by displaying all of the words in sequence in a single spot, with you controlling the pace at which they display. It also identifies the letters which your brain usually deems the most “important” in recognizing a word and moving on to the next one. Spritz uses an algorithm to highlight those letters in red, drawing your focus to them and speeding up your potential input rate.

A couple of seemingly obvious questions come to mind, though. Yes, it sounds like a phenomenal bit of technology for just reading a block of text, but not everyone reads that way. Can you “bookmark” where you are and come back later? Sure, it’s great if it allows you to read A Tale of Two Cities in 90 minutes, but we don’t always have 90 uninterrupted minutes to read. And what of people who want to extract and use the text in other places, such as ::: ahem ::: bloggers, or just consumers who want to share a paragraph with a friend via e-mail or social media? Can you cut and paste from this?

There’s a short video on it from the Today Show below. So tell me… have any of you already tried this? Does it sound viable? Or is it the next step in SKYNET enslaving us all? I’m not sure why, but when I saw this I was immediately attracted to the idea, particularly given how much I have to read on a daily basis for my work. (Say nothing of recreational reading.)

Check it out and let me know what you think..


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Haven’t there been speed reading techniques for decades?

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Remember subvocalization and Evelyn Wood?

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Wood_(teacher)

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Gee, sorry. I must have been so busy being unreliable on immigration issues that I missed it. Perhaps you can assist in educating all of us by listing the various programs and technologies over the years which utilized single focal point, single word feed applications to accelerate reading.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

No way I could do that.

How can you read one word at a time?

It would be like driving and looking directly over the hood at that small part of the road.

reaganaut on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

I prefer to read at a slower pace and think about what I have read as well as consider the counter arguments. If I am reading a book simply for enjoyment, then why wouldn’t I want to stretch it out?

I don’t think this is anything I would be interested in.

sharrukin on March 8, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Mee-ow.

TaraMaclay on March 8, 2014 at 5:42 PM

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

LMAOROF!!!

OmahaConservative on March 8, 2014 at 5:42 PM

I read at a pretty fast pace, but I hate the idea of the words being thrown at me like that.

When I read for work, it’s usually high level material that takes same serious thought. I can just imagine having to rewind/fastword constantly to find the right spot which is a bit of a pain compared to the way you reread a word, phrase, or sentence in a book.

When I read for pleasure, I do it mostly to relax and this had the exact opposite effect on me.

It might be perfect for some, but for me? Not interested.

DisneyFan on March 8, 2014 at 5:45 PM

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Awesome sauce.

John the Libertarian on March 8, 2014 at 5:46 PM

This isn’t new. Not really convinced it accomplishes much.

ElectricPhase on March 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Gee, sorry. I must have been so busy being unreliable on immigration issues that I missed it. Perhaps you can assist in educating all of us by listing the various programs and technologies over the years which utilized single focal point, single word feed applications to accelerate reading.
Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Pardon me, but my comments here were not meant to criticize you or anyone else. I am simply skeptical about an app claiming to be introducing a new speed reading technique or tool and was pointing out that other speed reading techniques have been hailed as game changers over the years and haven’t revolutionized reading. But, if it works for some people, then great.

And, as for amnesty (please don’t blur the line between legal immigration and illegal aliens), I didn’t even mention it here.

Sheesh.

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:51 PM

I dunno about this method. I read three or four words at the same time and draw context in that manner. It seems to increase comprehension. One word at a time seems too tedious.

NOMOBO on March 8, 2014 at 5:55 PM

And, as for amnesty (please don’t blur the line between legal immigration and illegal aliens), I didn’t even mention it here.

Sheesh.

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:51 PM

Jazz sure slapped the snot outta’ you, heh…

OmahaConservative on March 8, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Gee, sorry. I must have been so busy being unreliable on immigration issues that I missed it. Perhaps you can assist in educating all of us by listing the various programs and technologies over the years which utilized single focal point, single word feed applications to accelerate reading.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

HA !!
quoting that one for posterity :)

I already can read books that large in hour or so +/-, always have been that way.

dmacleo on March 8, 2014 at 5:58 PM

To put that in perspective, at 1,000 words per minute, you’d be able to read an entire Harry Potter novel in a little over an hour.

That’s not much of an improvement over what it takes your normal literate adult from reading the novel the old-fashioned way.

There may be legitmate uses for an app that flashes up one word at a time but not when it comes to literature. There are passages that you want to spend more time on and those that you read quickly. This app simply decides to keep you moving. And I’d bet comprehension and long-term retention is not good either.

If you want to get through War and Peace quickly, just buy the Cliff’s Notes version and be done with it. If you want to savor the reason it is a classic, read the damned book!

Happy Nomad on March 8, 2014 at 6:00 PM

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:51 PM

sucks laying in the bed you made huh ??

dmacleo on March 8, 2014 at 6:00 PM

OT, Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll.

rbj on March 8, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Gee, sorry. I must have been so busy being unreliable on immigration issues that I missed it. Perhaps you can assist in educating all of us by listing the various programs and technologies over the years which utilized single focal point, single word feed applications to accelerate reading.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Uh, seems like the original posts were on topic and at least slightly informative.

Thanks for making me side with bluegill. (sigh).

WitchDoctor on March 8, 2014 at 6:02 PM

And, as for amnesty (please don’t blur the line between legal immigration and illegal aliens), I didn’t even mention it here.

bluegill on March 8, 2014 at 5:51 PM

And much like you, I’m “simply skeptical” about your motivation after I previously asked you to respond to my answer about your unfounded allegations (which were repeated ad nauseum by a number of other readers here) but after saying you would “shortly” you proceeded to disappear entirely.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Gee, sorry. I must have been so busy being unreliable on immigration issues that I missed it. Perhaps you can assist in educating all of us by listing the various programs and technologies over the years which utilized single focal point, single word feed applications to accelerate reading.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Standing starting the 1980′s patented film slow clap.

Happy Nomad on March 8, 2014 at 6:03 PM

I’ve never seen AP or Ed comment, other than furthering a point or making a correction. That said, don’t bite the hand, bluegill.

Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

You mean bluegill failed to either read or comprehend the actual story?

/There’s a first …

ShainS on March 8, 2014 at 6:14 PM

I’ve never seen AP or Ed comment, other than furthering a point or making a correction. That said, don’t bite the hand, bluegill.

Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Oh, it’s rare, but everyone here has done it from time to time. Long time readers will probably remember some rather lengthy debates that AP has gotten into. I generally don’t, but this is a special case. I have more than a few unpopular opinions and I’m happy to provide fodder for discussion, no matter how vigorous. But when somebody comes along and repeatedly throws out completely unfounded grenades on subjects where the majority of us – including me – agree, such as amnesty for illegals or 2A rights, and then runs away without being willing to justify them, I will occasionally stop by to ask how they arrived at that strange conclusion.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:19 PM

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:19 PM

She consistently talks crap about you in many threads, esp. in the QOTD thread. Glad to see you respond to her…
I am tired of seeing her bashing the hosts here on a regular basis.

OmahaConservative on March 8, 2014 at 6:22 PM

I’ve never seen AP or Ed comment, other than furthering a point or making a correction. That said, don’t bite the hand, bluegill.

Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Oh, it’s rare, but everyone here has done it from time to time. Long time readers will probably remember some rather lengthy debates that AP has gotten into. I generally don’t, but this is a special case. I have more than a few unpopular opinions and I’m happy to provide fodder for discussion, no matter how vigorous. But when somebody comes along and repeatedly throws out completely unfounded grenades on subjects where the majority of us – including me – agree, such as amnesty for illegals or 2A rights, and then runs away without being willing to justify them, I will occasionally stop by to ask how they arrived at that strange conclusion.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:19 PM

Understood, we’re all on a scale system of stances, if you will.

Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Like others have said, this doesn’t seem like it would be helpful.

I don’t read just one word at a time, I read clauses or even whole sentences. I think this app would slow me down.

FlareCorran on March 8, 2014 at 6:32 PM

I’ve never seen AP or Ed comment, other than furthering a point or making a correction.
Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Sure they do. Lots and lots.

John the Libertarian on March 8, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Oh, OT and FYI for everyone, there were a couple of e-mails asking about an open thread for the Palin speech. The schedule ran a bit long at CPAC. Erica was going to do it at 7 ET, but we wanted the entire video to include, so AP will run that for the QoTD so it stays up on top all night.

/programnotes

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:36 PM

I’ve never seen AP or Ed comment, other than furthering a point or making a correction.
Cheese Wheel on March 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Sure they do. Lots and lots.

John the Libertarian on March 8, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Yep, especially AllahPundit when he’s been criticized.

It’s most enjoyable, and I know his time is precious, because he’s a very effective debater …

ShainS on March 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM

You know. most of the time If Bluegill posts, if I’m not interested with what she has to say I just pass over her posts. Hey, let everyone speak(or type), but sometimes she really is just a little snot.

Barred on March 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM

just in time, here’s some extra reading for your enjoyment on a Sat PM

“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like — oh, just you wait — I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, ‘Oh, Yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree, we’re smart, we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope.”

-S. Palin

r keller on March 8, 2014 at 6:48 PM

I tried this out. You can read that fast but comprehension is almost minimal. Not being able to read 1000 words per minute is a GOOD thing.

Hal_10000 on March 8, 2014 at 6:52 PM

so AP will run that for the QoTD so it stays up on top all night.

/programnotes

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:36 PM

Thanks for the heads up!! CPAC was good this year and Sarah Palin knocked it out of the park!!!!

bluefox on March 8, 2014 at 7:01 PM

-S. Palin

r keller on March 8, 2014 at 6:48 PM

That was such a cute take!! She had a lot of applause through out her speech too.

bluefox on March 8, 2014 at 7:03 PM

A couple of seemingly obvious questions come to mind, though.

I can’t imagine that they would make something like that without being able to pause and bookmark. And it is going to be ePub based, so integrating a traditional reader into the app would be pretty easy.

They have samples of the different reading speeds on the product site. I KNOW I can’t read nearly 600 wpm the old fashion way, but it was quite easy for me to do even on the first try. Actually, personally at that speed, I was amazed how easy it was to digest the information as well, but that may prove to be more difficult if applied to my usual reading material.

Biggest problem will be when words/names occurr which one is not already familiar with. A hypothetical book called “Great Names in Russian Literature” would NOT be ideal for this format.

Glenn Jericho on March 8, 2014 at 7:03 PM

I just tried it 200, 300, 400, and 600 words per minute. It works. Many of you who are now mocking it will be using it within the next year or two. I can’t wait until it’s available for Apple products.

Right Wingnut on March 8, 2014 at 7:07 PM

I just tried it 200, 300, 400, and 600 words per minute. It works. Many of you who are now mocking it will be using it within the next year or two. I can’t wait until it’s available for Apple products.

Right Wingnut on March 8, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Works for what exactly?

How in the hell do you savor Shakespeare’s works one effing word at a time?

Happy Nomad on March 8, 2014 at 7:13 PM

I’m exactly the opposite. For example, I read Moby Dick exceedingly slowly to savor every weighty word.

John the Libertarian on March 8, 2014 at 7:17 PM

OT – listen up

Schadenfreude on March 8, 2014 at 7:21 PM

I don’t think I would use it. Reading for me is recreational and enjoyment. Sounds too programmed for my taste. Reading is also for learning and learning involves comprehending what you’ve read and going back over if needed.

Just because you can read 500 to 1,000 words per minute, what can you retain?

One could be nourished by a tube, but I enjoy eating like I’ve always done, LOL

I’ll pass:-)

bluefox on March 8, 2014 at 7:23 PM

OT – listen up

Schadenfreude on March 8, 2014 at 7:21 PM

That is why she closes CPAC!!

Did you catch when she said something to the effect that the “error” of Obama is over? I think that was before the part you posted. Or maybe I heard “error” instead of “era”?

bluefox on March 8, 2014 at 7:25 PM

John the Libertarian on March 8, 2014 at 7:17 PM

Good evening, John.

As a writer, you’re reading for plot twists, atmosphere, character development, and emotional impact. Features that fire the imagination and transport the reader, reflecting the human experience. All the things great writing was meant to invoke.

I think this app is best geared toward items like tech reports and students looking to read SparkNotes minutes before the exam.

thatsafactjack on March 8, 2014 at 7:26 PM

I wonder…sometimes I think it’d be great to read even faster (I’ve always read well and pretty quickly, for a “normal” type of reading). But, and here’s the but, a lot of times I find myself going back and reading a passage if it’s well written, graceful prose, or if it’s emotive, or if it conveys a particular philosophical idea. And I wonder if you can read very, very fast and still get the full impact of your imagination creating the world and images in your mind you would reading at a more normal speed. If the characters emotions, etc. are as well grasped.

I don’t know any speed readers to compare say my response to a particular work vs. theirs, so I honestly don’t know.

Severian on March 8, 2014 at 7:36 PM

Going back and “re-reading” – jeez

Severian on March 8, 2014 at 7:38 PM

It suddenly occurs to me that, since this app is best for technical reading, as opposed to reading for pleasure, we might well insist that all members of congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch, become expert in its use so that they can actually read those several thousand page long bills they are so given to drafting of late.

No more excuses. They must read those bills, in their entirety, before they sign them, because now… there’s an app for that.

thatsafactjack on March 8, 2014 at 7:49 PM

For those of us that read the phone book for pleasure I’m unsure that this would be an improvement.

Mason on March 8, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Back when Hollyweird was tolerable the alternative to skool reading was to fire up the VCR.

viking01 on March 8, 2014 at 8:32 PM

A great big Bronx cheer ( a raspberry to the less yankeefiied) to those of y’all who pick on the Shaw dude. Though the energy articles are still his best.

cozmo on March 8, 2014 at 8:33 PM

If you constantly have a big stack of books and magazines on your bedside table, you might have at some point wished you were able to read a little bit faster. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

For the Love of St. George — keep this away from Resist We Much.

. . . she already has steam blowing from her ears.

Axe on March 8, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Just spent a few minutes on their website, actually got to 600 WPM. Problem is now that image is burned in my eyes and I see dark rectangles all over my screen. Lawsuits to follow ala Navin Johnson’s opti-grab.

caveman on March 8, 2014 at 9:31 PM

If only “reading” were the equivalent of “understanding”.

Merely passing one eyes over a text don’t quite cut it.

A nice liberal rainbow rosy picture.

Sherman1864 on March 8, 2014 at 10:34 PM

…Shad needs to read this thread!

KOOLAID2 on March 8, 2014 at 11:07 PM

Hubby bought me a Kindle for Christmas, but I surreptitiously sneak real books into the house (no, not porn) and read them when he’s not around. I’m too tactile to enjoy a flat piece of glass. I love books; the smell, turning pages, the feel of the paper, how it can take me out of the now and put anywhere at any time. Speed reading may be good for filthy government regs I have to keep up with in my work, but to enjoy and escape, I don’t want speed, a robotic device or an App I want a real book.

AppraisHer on March 8, 2014 at 11:16 PM

And much like you, I’m “simply skeptical” about your motivation after I previously asked you to respond to my answer about your unfounded allegations (which were repeated ad nauseum by a number of other readers here) but after saying you would “shortly” you proceeded to disappear entirely.

Jazz Shaw on March 8, 2014 at 6:03 PM

What?

WitchDoctor on March 8, 2014 at 11:51 PM

On the whole I find my reading comprehension goes down the faster I read. Sure, I can read fast, but at some point it’s just meaningless words my brain can say but not translate, much less string together into a coherent thought that I retain.

I’ve been reading textbooks again after nearly a decade, this past quarter, dedicated to statistics. There is just no way I’m speed reading that stuff. I already comprehend very little of it.

Logus on March 9, 2014 at 12:23 AM

Around 500-550 wpm seems to be too much for me. 300 was okay. Reading simplistic stuff really fast is one thing; I cannot see myself speed-reading war and peace and getting any really good comprehension of it. As it is, I typically re-read passages, sometimes several times. Over twenty years ago when I took the ACT I had pretty close to perfect reading comprehension, and my reading speed has remained fairly constant over the years at somewhere around 250-300 wpm. I’m happy where I’m at.

Logus on March 9, 2014 at 12:35 AM

The Harry Potter example misses the point. Spritz doesn’t give your eye any context (that’s why it seems “choppy”) so it detracts from reading long, fictional works where the surrounding words and page layout are used by the author to paint a detailed picture. It’s also lousy for technical information with lots of numbers or parenthetical explanations.

However, for long emails that you need need to scan for pertinent info on your phone– it’s PERFECT.

ChicagoJewishGuy on March 9, 2014 at 12:42 AM

This would be a bad app for academic reading as well, where readers will often skip words/sections that are not important for what they are looking for. Also, this is bad for developing higher-level reading skills such as chunking, skimming and scanning. While it may move quickly, this is not how most people read. I imagine it does squat for comprehension as well, since you cannot discern the structure of the text by the words.

Pattosensei on March 9, 2014 at 12:52 AM

I watched the video clip. I read every word on the screen. Fastest reading I’ve ever done.

What did I read?

Shy Guy on March 9, 2014 at 1:21 AM

Why are we focused on books? Why not be able to read this blog post in 1.5 minutes? I don’t know about the comments, but getting through what this post is about would be nice.
There may be some challenges, for example: how to show quoted material.
If there was a spritzed pop up or link, I would click it to read this post..

bbordwell on March 9, 2014 at 8:55 AM

I think the point in that NBC link in the comments is worth repeating: comprehension takes time. I’m sure this app will come in handy sometimes, but only for lighter material – heavier stuff will be better served with an old-fashioned page view I think.

Teleros on March 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Woot! I just read Tolstoy’s “War And Peace” in ten minutes. It’s about Russia, I think.

GreenBlade on March 10, 2014 at 10:45 AM

I did the whole speed reading thing decades ago. My take : Its a waste of time.

Yes you can blow through the text and yes you can remember a lot of “facts”. But do you want to actually enjoy what you’re reading? Get “into” your book? Then speed reading isn’t for you.

I do a lot of technical/scientific reading, which means I need to integrate & process while reading that material. Again, speed reading isn’t an option.

The only time I’ve found “speed reading” to be helpful is when scanning for a particular fact in the text, and this app would only make that slower. Part of speed reading as I was taught is “reading” an entire line at a time, not one word at a time (narrower columns can help a lot with that).

taznar on March 10, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Reading one word at a time is the ANTITHESIS of “speed reading”!

This cannot work.

I speed read, but I can do it only from printed books where I can see both facing pages at once, so I always buy the hard copy. Electronic books which attempt single-page presentations usually fail miserably, as they do not properly present the original context and generally have no way at all to sensibly present figures, tables, etc.

landlines on March 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Being really old, I remember how all my friends were so vehemently opposed when I installed one of the early answering machines: “I’m not going to talk to a machine !!”

tkmcp on March 10, 2014 at 1:08 PM

As for needing the context of the sentence, paragraph, entire page, etc., uhh, isn’t this a Memento issue?

tkmcp on March 10, 2014 at 1:15 PM