Spritz: A new app for speed-reading

Can this new app finally allow you to read at super-fast speeds?

In general, traditional speed-reading techniques don’t live up to the hype. You can make some improvements in your reading speed using a handful of techniques (such as using a pencil or your finger to quickly guide your eye across the text), but for most people, claims of vastly increased speed whilst retaining comprehension just haven’t been realistic. In other words: skimming works, but true speed reading seems like too much work for too little comprehension.

However, a new app has come along that might change this.

Spritz works by taking some of the work out of reading: the moving of your eye across and down the page. The app presents words one-by-one, in the same place on the screen so that you aren’t continually moving and re-orienting your eyes all over the place.  

This idea has been around for a while, and is called ‘rapid serial visual presentation’ and there are other apps both web-based ( e.g. http://www.spreeder.com ) and smartphone-based (e.g. Velocity – Speed Reader).

However, Sprintz has an extra trick up its sleeves: the way that it positions the word. Apparently there is something called an ‘optimal recognition point’ (or ORP), which is a position in a word slightly to the left of the middle of the word. When your eyes hit upon that point, you are able to comprehend the word. Sprintz finds the ORP for each word and highlights that letter in red, further easing the work your brain has to do in orienting and understanding each word.

So in theory it sounds great, but does it work?

I’ve tried the demo, available on the Spritz website, and it worked pretty well for me. I got up to 600 words per minute, at least double what I could normally achieve. However, at the moment its only available in its full form on Samsung devices, so I don’t know what the long term practicality of using it is. Does it become too tiring to use continuously? I’m curious to find out.

One of the reservations I have about it is that giving up control of your eye movements might have downsides as well as positives. Quite often when reading I want to change rhythm, reading a section more slowly in order to think more carefully about it. Or I might want to stop and look back over a paragraph. Perhaps future versions of these aps will have more user control to allow you to easily do this (perhaps evening using your device’s camera as an eye-tracker, and when it senses your eyes have moved away to look at something else, it momentarily pauses the text).

Reading some of the comments people have posted online about it, it seems that people either love or hate the idea. However, many people were very dismissive of ebooks, and they have taken off in a big way. In fact, once apps like Spritz are integrated with ebooks, then I can see their true potential being achieved. Being able to read a whole book in half or quarter the time it would usually take would be very appealing to many people. I can also see it being a popular app on smart-watches, where the tiny screen-size makes it hard to read large amounts of text in the ordinary way. However, it might be popular with those trying to sell smartwatches, but it’s yet to be seen whether the general public will really want to read much text on a watch!

What’s your opinion of speed reading? Have you tried any of the apps I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear from you. Click on the contact page and send me your thoughts.