In the despair-inducing young adult novel Flowers for Algernon, a man named Charlie with a low IQ receives an experimental treatment that makes him temporarily way smarter than he normally is. Then he loses the intelligence he gained and it’s really sad. There’s also a talking mouse.
Boston-based startup Spritz will make you feel like the newly-smart Charlie and it will also help you read Flowers for Algernon in a shockingly short period of time, and if the technology starts showing up on our devices, you may never have to revert back to your average human reading speed ever again.
Spritz uses technology to reduce the amount of time spent moving the eyes around reading. To do that, it lines the words up along what it calls a “optimal recognition point” and shows them to the reader one-by-one. So when you read using Spritz, you look at a small box on screen and words flash by one at a time. Though that might sound horrible at first (and it is initially disconcerting), once you adjust to the idea, you start reading like a librarian on crank. Users can adjust the speed, from 100 to 1,000 words per minute. This could make students of Russian literature very happy.
Spritz is raising millions of dollars in seed money, and its website indicates the company is in talks with a variety of partners, from digital publishers to wearable manufacturers. It will appear as an email reading app for Samsung’s upcoming Gear2 and S5.
Does this mean we’re all going to be riding Segways, wearing Google Glass, and reading whole Dostoevsky novels on lunch break? Well, maybe not, but it will be interesting to see if Spritz can develop tools to help keep comprehension up as speed improves, including ways to mark significant passages and pages. After all, reading through an assigned text quickly would be enormously helpful to all students, but if the reading becomes too passive and doesn’t allow for note-taking or reflection, it may not have the same impact on the reader. It’s not necessary to have the eyes linger on every page as though it’s a beautiful edition of Goethe in the original German. Sometimes you just need to read something quickly. But without taking notes or having a moment to process the information, speed reading won't be universally beneficial.
But for now, using this technology to get through our troublesome inboxes would be a blessing—and we'll have to wait and see how it develops from there. Who knows, maybe you’ll read this article by spritzing it some day.