Co.Design

How Spritz Redesigned Reading, Letting You Scan 1,000 Words A Minute

And you thought you were too busy for War and Peace.

When we read, our eyes move across a page or a screen to digest the words. All of that eye movement slows us down, but a new technology called Spritz claims to have figured out a way to turn us into speed-readers. By flashing words onto a single point on a screen, much like watching TV, Spritz says it will double your reading speed.

Spritz Inc. is attempting to redesign reading—and renaming it “spritzing”—by streaming one word at a time at speeds varying between 250 and 1,000 words per minute. Words are centered around an “Optimal Recognition Point" in a special display called the "Redicle." This method reportedly eliminates the time-consuming need to move your eyes across a page, which Spritz's research suggests improves focus and comprehension. “Atlas Shrugged in a day? You betcha,” promises the site.

“Spritzing is not for everyone,” CEO and co-founder Frank Waldman tells Co.Design. “But for digesting emails, social media streams, and news especially, it allows you to read more in a shorter amount of time. My 87-year-old aunt-in-law just started spritzing and she loves it.”

The technology was released last Sunday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and the company has since received more than 5,000 developer submissions. More than 1 million people have tested out the technology on the company's site. Waldman says the company is developing Spritz readers for texting, social media, eBooks, smartwatches, and smartphones. Samsung will be shipping the Galaxy S5 and Gear2 with Spritz's email reader preinstalled.

Waldman believes the technology has promise for educational settings, too. During testing, several users with dyslexia or ADD said Spritzing helped them concentrate and absorb information more easily. “The idea of flashing one word at a time came from research on disability back in the '70s,” Waldman says. “It’s not new. It’s a bit like flashcards on steroids.”

Spritz may let you hoover up text, like speed-eating without chewing, but how does it affect enjoyment of reading? When reading a traditional book, our pace tends to fluctuate according to a sentence's natural rhythm. We can re-read a confusing passage or slow down to savor a particularly beautiful sentence. By rapid-firing words at a robotic clip, Spritz’s system destroys those fluid rhythms and diminishes a reader’s sense of control. After a while, it feels a little like staring into a strobe light.

“If you’re reading Shakespeare, you’re not going to want to do it with Spritz,” Waldman admits. “But with a romance novel, for example, people skim like crazy anyway. They just rip through a book, reading for plot. Are they savoring every word? Probably not.”

Another reason Spritzing is faster than traditional reading is that the technology reduces subvocalization—the tendency to internally speak written words. With Spritzing, "I no longer subvocalize," Waldman says. "The words move too quickly." While reading speed is gained, what's lost with this elimination of subvocalizing is the dynamic nuance of characters' voices—if you don't speak dialogue in your mind, you don't hear Hagrid's growly giant voice in Harry Potter, or Gollum's creepy whine in Lord of the Rings. And the fact that each word is presented individually goes against our natural tendencies in both speech and reading: When we talk, the sounds of words blend together—unlike robots, we don’t leave a distinct space between each one. For this reason, some users might find that Spritzed words carry less emotion.

But if speed is your main goal, or if you struggle with distraction or an influx of emails, then Spritz may be a dream come true.

Try out Spritz yourself here.

[Image: Student reading via Shutterstock]

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20 Comments

  • Tip for a follow up story to this, email al@getmailbird.com for a follow up to speedreading :)

    An awesome productivity hack.

  • Beatriz Kelly-Rosenberg

    Do...not...blink...

    I can see the application being useful for some things, but not sure it can replace the leisurely reading of a good book, where one can stop and ponder the words and meaning of what they've just read.

  • yes, it is not applicable to science and technical book, but I think it is very efficient into reading more simple kind of books such as literature and possibly self-growth book.

    I'm excited into using it with a personal development book that I have!!!!

  • The notion that they've invented this or might get a patent on it is asinine. Loads of prior art. Shame on FastCoDesign for just parroting a press release instead of examining their claims.

  • Siddharth Singh

    I love it! Currently though, there is already this web app called Spreeder which essentially does the same thing. The thing that this improves on is the word placement, and I must say I felt I could comprehend more with Spritz than I could with Spreeder. Till this comes out as a web app, I'll keep using Spreeder .. though not for reading Lord of the Rings of course! This is strictly for information intake!

  • Very cool idea, tried and the concept works! My question is if our eye ball muscles are designed and built to look at the same spot for an extended period. Typical reading rhythm allows us to blink and rest, I want to try Spritz more and see if it will dry up my eye balls. Last thought, we read and think at the same time, will the running time limited our brain to think during reading? The other term, we can easily got brainwashed if we soak up information without thinking. But, I think the key is not for reading book as Mr Waldman said, it's for short messages. It is the PERFECT match for the limited screen size of the wearable device! Samsung's square shape Gear will love Spritz!

  • Emery J Warwojek

    In other words, if you are reading any book that is well written then you won't want to use Spritz. I find it amazing how people still do no realize that the brain can only comprehend words at a certain speed and that reading quicker isn't the main hurdle to overcome, but rather training our brains to understand how words connect together to make a thought and how each thought connects to previous ones. I wouldn't recommend using Spritz for any book that creates suspense or anticipation for what is going to happen, because you won't have enough to time to be in suspense.

  • They do menton this on the website though, I think their primary aim is for it to be used to quickly digest news or blog posts where you just want to asorb the content quickly. They definitley dont want you to fly through great books.

  • I'm confused by something. Will I have to read something like War and Peace via Spritz (i.e., in the "vertical" format) to acquire the increased reading speed, or would the occasional use of Spritz increase my reading speed of War and Peace in the "horizontal" format?

    I guess what I'm asking is, will I have to use the Spritz app for everything I read in order to increase my reading speed, or does this software somehow train the eye to read words so that I can read books faster without Spritz?

  • On the About page on their website they mention using Spritz will increase overall reading speed without the use of the app.

    Looks really good I cant wait to use it more.

  • Victor David

    I think Sprintz is not so much about training you read faster as it is about changing the way we read and understand everything.

    I just read their entire page by sprintzing and I kind of noticed a slightly improvement in my horizontal reading.

    I think this will change so many things, sadly the kindles wont be able to use it.

  • Raziel Abulafia

    This is great! You could read a novel in an hour at the treadmill and impress everyone with your erudition at cocktail hour :)

    Barnes & Noble had a patent out for the RSVP mode on the Nook. Don't know if it made it to production: https://www.google.com/patents/US20130159850

    I'm rather surprised that this is not a standard reading option on any mobile device.