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Boston-based tech startup Spritz recently released a new speed-reading technology that will soon become embedded in the many websites, apps and other wearable devices increasingly common to daily communication.
By showing users just one word at a time, the program establishes an "optimal recognition point" designed to speed reading rates anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words per minute. But does it really work? Some experts claim that good old-fashioned "skimming" is still the key to quick comprehension of texts.
Frank Waldman, co-founder and CEO of Spritz, joins Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson to explain the how the technology works and his hopes for it.
Try Spritz at 250 words per minute (focus on the red letter):
Try Spritz at 350 words per minute:
Try Spritz at 500 words per minute:
On how Spritz works
"It positions words in a spot on a display where you can recognize the word, without moving your eye... About 80 percent of the time reading, conventionally, is spent moving your eye from one word to the next. So just placing each word in a spot where you don't have to move your eye saves you a lot of time, and that time, your brain can use to process the word you just read, and prepare for reading and recognizing the next word. And so, by placing the word for you in a streaming text display, you're able to increase your reading speed effortlessly."
On the analogy of "a treadmill for your eyes"
"Running on the road is hard. You're distracted. You're body doesn't, you know, really get into the perfect speed, unless you run a lot. With a treadmill, you set the speed, hop on it — you don't have to worry about anything. You just relax and run. And it's the same with this technique: you set your speed, the words flow in, your brain processes them, and believe it or not, even at that 600-word-per-minute speed you just heard, your brain can recognize those words."
On the efficacy of Spritz
"We have people reading books, and we test them, and they score higher when asked questions. So, you know, it's not an academic study. It's just done by us to make sure that, you know, we know that people can do it. There is a reporter for the Sun over in the U.K. who benchmarked himself reading 'A Tale of Two Cities,' and I encourage you to look at the results of what he tells his readers."
"There is a reading speed for comprehension that's optimal for each person, and of course, everyone's brain is different. You know, the figure you've seen quoted in a lot of stories is 1,000 words a minute, and we have a guy who's reading 1,000 words a minute perfect comprehension. I'd say he's a rare case. Other people read with great comprehension, improved comprehension, at 350 to 400 words a minute, which is almost double their normal reading speed. And that's enough. You don't have to read a book in an hour."
On practical applications for the technology
"We think there's a lot of opportunity. You know, there's a lot of analytics that are possible in this technique, because, you know, you're streaming text that, for the first time, you know that someone's actually reading it. When you surf a web page, you're not sure that anyone's reading the content. So this is a way to know, okay, if it's being streamed, then the publisher knows, okay, people are actually reading it."
This story aired on March 14, 2014.
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