Innovative Program Will Help Individuals To Increase Reading Speed
Jamie Locke, vice president of operations for the text-streaming technology company Spritz, claimed he had seen the future when he first saw Spritz technology in action. With almost 20 years in the technology, Locke was impressed enough to draw out his checkbook for co-founders Frank Waldman and Maik Maurer, whom he had met through an acquaintance.
Spritz is a new technology aimed toward increasing reading speed while retaining comprehension by eliminating the part of reading that takes up the most amount of time-actually moving one’s eyes from word to word. The company describes itself as being based in text-streaming and focusing on increasing communication speed.
Maurer was working for a firm in Germany when the idea for Spritz came to him. Locke said that Maurer had to read a large amount of material on a regular basis, which led him to try to think of ways that he might be able to read that material much more quickly while still comprehending it. “And so he started doing research into reading,” Locke said.
Locke said that Spritz is “all about efficiency and trying to cut through the things you have to read every single day a lot faster.”
Spritz takes words and identifies the individual letter of the word for which one’s eyes look. This letter is crucial to how brains recognize the word and then assign meaning to it. Reading a sentence consists of recognizing multiple words and then putting their meanings in context with one another. The way Spritz reduces the time in reading is by highlighting the “important” letter in a different color and centering it in the same position of the screen for every word that flashes by. Even the shape of the text used to present this stream of words has been carefully selected to maximize reading efficiency. Spritz says that a person can now look at one point and receive a stream of words in the exact position for which they would normally spend time searching, increasing reading speeds by hundreds of words per minute.
Although software developers are excited about Spritz, the company has not been very public until recently-it has been operating under what the company calls “Stealth Mode” for the majority of its beginning time.
“When you think you’ve got something really interesting, you work on something in ‘Stealth Mode’ until you’ve got it really fleshed out,” Locke said. “We had to write a lot of patents ideas around ideas to protect our intellectual property … and we do that in stealth mode so really nobody can figure out exactly what [we’re] up to.”
Spritz has experienced some large successes with major communication and technology firms such as Samsung, to whom they will be releasing the first Software Development Kits (SKDs) in a few days. With SKDs, Locke said, “developers start writing software for [putting Spritz on their products].” Locke added that their development with Samsung, “will manifest itself on the Galaxy S5 coming out in a couple months.”
Spritz, while based in Boston, is not only for English texts. Spritz already offers a number of other languages on their website for trial, but this is not as simple as hitting Google Translate. Because Spritz identifies the particular letter by which people recognize a word, the whole process changes for the majority of languages.
“The algorithms and the way your eyes work in conjecture with your brain can be very different [for different languages],” Locke said of this process. “There is actually quite a bit of work involved with bringing Spritz to a different language.”
It is not too difficult for English speakers to imagine using Spritz in one of the romance languages, which use grammar and characters similar to those used in English. If one were to try Korean or Chinese, however, the task becomes much more difficult.
The average reading speed hovers around 220 words per minute. On its website, Spritz introduces people to the technology at 250 words per minute. From there, readers are urged to experiment and try reading new content at higher speeds, the highest being 600 words per minute. Spritz claims that once a person feels comfortable at a reading speed, there is no necessarypractice to stay at that speed. A person could hypothetically walk away for months and then easily return to their former fastest speed. A few of the Spritz test subjects demonstrated an ability to read and comprehend texts at a speed of 900 words per minute, according to the company.