There has been a lot of forum buzz about a new speed reading app which is getting built into the new line of Samsung Phones (the upcoming Galaxy S5 etc) named Spritz. Given the fact that Reuters estimated that the marketing budget for Samsung was $14 billion in 2013 (although one can never trust such sensational figures) it is not so far fetched to believe that some of this buzz is down to viral marketing.
So: to the functionality!
They claim that there’s a lot of people ‘spritzing’ at over 1000wpm already but the maximum value available on the site is 600wpm. I can manage the 600wpm setting well enough, although the sample text isn’t really enough to get a feel of what its like to read like this for long periods of time, and my suspicions are aroused by their >1000wpm claims since at The World Championship Speed Reading Competition the top contestants usually clock in at about 1k-2k wpm with only ~50% comprehension. According to a study in The Journal of Behavioral Optometry the average person with a spot of training can identify an image that flashed on a screen in about 2 ms which translates to about 500 words per second, or 30k wpm. I doubt this translates well for series of words but the potential is there I suppose.
Except not really. My dad is a speed reader and I asked him what he thought of this and he told me its an old concept called ‘Meta Guiding’ and says there have been various software and hardware solutions that aim at a similar effect. In fact it turns out that there are two main speed reading training strategies in use today, Subvocalisation and Meta Guiding.
Subvocalisation is the practice of repressing the instinct to ‘say’ the words in your head as you read and examine each one, speed readers claim internally pronouncing the words takes up time and ‘processing power’.
Meta Guiding is basically directing the eye at what to look at, and is tied up closely with the history of devices used to aid speed reading. It began in the 1950s with Evelyn Wood who realised that using her hand as a guide in a sweeping motion allowed her to read significantly faster.
Caveats aside, I think the idea is captivating and I look forward to trying it out on higher speeds and for longer periods. I might knock an android app together to replicate the functionality. The mechanics of it shouldn’t be too complicated (spitting out a text file, word by word to a center aligned text view with various thread.wait values should be good enough to try it out for longer periods)
OK, signing off. Have fun with the demo, let me know if you want to try out the homebrew version.