In the movie “Lucy,” Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who ingests a drug that gives her super-intelligence, allowing her to read huge volumes of material in just minutes.
In real life, the Boston tech startup Spritz makes a speed-reading app that allows you to do just that. After a small amount of practice reading with the Spritz app, you should be able to read at 1,000 words per minute — a speed fast enough to let you take in a 120,000 word novel in just two hours. (The company also had a promotional integration on the Lucy web site.)
So you can test your own maximum reading speed, we’ve embedded a Spritz widget below and loaded an old Business Insider article into it. It’s 263 words long, so it should take you a minute or less. Use the up/down scroll bar on the side to locate and adjust the speed from 250 wpm to 450 wpm. (You can also take another Spritz reading test here.)
The app has a novelty factor — it feels bizarre to let your eyes passively take in huge quantities of words at an accelerated rate instead of leisurely scanning sentences the old-fashioned way. And as everything comes at a constant speed, you can’t slow down to savour a passage or skip past the boring bits. But in terms of raw factual intake, it can’t be beaten. Will consumers get used to it? Probably: They got used to the pageless pagination of the Kindle, after all. (Although when the Kindle was launched some readers complained that it abandoned the traditional sense of fixed pages, and Amazon later added back a virtual page-turning aspect to the device.)
Spritz founder and CEO Frank Waldman believes his company will give birth to a golden era of speed reading.
Samsung’s line of Gear smart watches, the impending launch of the Apple Watch, and Google Glass all beg the same question: How will these new, tiny screens deliver enough information to make them useful as communications devices? Spritz solves that problem by delivering words in a stream instead of in a series of lines. Indeed, Spritz is already integrated into the Gear 2 watches, Waldman told Business Insider.
The app is simple but brilliant. Regular reading is inefficient because a large portion of your time is wasted, spent simply moving your eye from one word to the next. So the Spritz app streams words in the same spot at high speed. You don’t need to move your eyes, just let them take in each new word as it appears. As long as you aren’t in the habit of mentally sounding out every word as you read, you’ll end up being able to read far faster than a human can speak.
Spritz has made a software development kit available to app makers who might want to integrate Spritz. So far, Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Financial Times, Engadget, and Thomson Reuters have all used the software. The company (which has $US3.5 million in investment funding and about 23 employees) is in conversations with Huffington Post, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the German publication Bild, Waldman says. “All these publishers can now make their late-breaking news available on the watch. We’re ideal for reading on a watch.”
Advertisers will also likely be interested, especially on mobile devices. Right now, mobile ad banners are so small they can only deliver a few legible words. “A mobile web banner with Spritz can deliver 1,000 words where previously there were only five or six,” Waldman says. Companies whose brands have some sort of association with speed are likely candidates, he says.
Anyone who worries about constant information overload in the digital age might not be too enthusiastic about Spritz’s other interesting effect: Waldman says that just because Spritz allows you to read twice as fast doesn’t mean you’re going to cut your reading time in half. “It enables readers to read more. if you read twice as fast you don’t read half the time, you read twice as much,” Waldman says. More content consumption means more opportunity for ad insertions, too — so one possible measure of Spritz’s success will be whether users end up seeing more ads, faster, because of it.
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