Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

3 minute read

Technology

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

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

[Image: Student reading via Shutterstock]

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.