New app the end of reading as you know it

STEPHEN HUTCHEON
Last updated 14:49 11/03/2014

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It's only been a few years since the concept of reading articles and even books on a phone became a reality and already we're about to be introduced to the next phase of reading on digital devices.

That's because many of the devices we will be carrying - or wearing, to be exact - come with much smaller screens.

Take for instance, the smart watch or Google Glass, or even the fitness tracker with its sliver of a display. All of these are examples of the new wave of wearable devices which are about to hit the mass market.

Enter Spritz. After three years in stealth mode, the start-up has taken the wrappers of a new service that promises to reinvent the way we read.

Spritz is already being prototyped in an email app developed for the the new Samsung Gear 2 smart watch, which will be launching soon.

The technology is based around Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), a concept that dates back to the 1970s and was later was used to improve reading efficiency through programs such as speed reading courses.

While there are many advantages to improving the efficiency of reader and comprehension, purists will choke at the prospect of a system that looks like the optical equivalent of binge drinking.

And anyone who loves typography, layout and the look and feel of the printed word, should probably stop reading here.

HOW TRADITIONAL READING WORKS

The company says traditional reading - on a page or screen - requires the reader to move their eyes along a sentence, word to word sequentially seeking what Spritz calls the "Optimal Recognition Point" or ORP.

This movement is called a saccade.

Your eye skips along a sentence, much like the animation in a karaoke video when you vocalise the lyrics by following the bouncing ball.

Sprtiz argues that traditional reading following the 80-20 rule: 80 per cent of your eye-brain activity is spent moving your eyeball. And only 20 per cent is spent processing the content you read.

HOW THE SPRITZ WAY OF READING WORKS

The Spritz method streams words, one-at-a-time into a narrow window the company calls a "redicle".

The redicle is designed to show up to 13 characters at a time, which also happens to be the maximum length word on which the eye can focus.

It's a bit like flinging words at your eyeball. Your eye doesn't waste time and energy on saccadic activity and as a result you spend more time absorbing and processing the content.

Spritz says it takes five minutes to train yourself to adapt to the rhythm and once that's done, you can read at speeds of up to 500 words a minute. It claims some early users are reaching speeds of 1000 words per minute.

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The average "traditional" reading speed is about 220 words per minute.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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