Spritz: Boston startup taps into need for speed-reading

Spritz Co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman displays the speed-reading technology. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
Spritz Co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman displays the speed-reading technology. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

A Boston-based tech startup wants to get a billion people reading at speeds they never thought possible, and starting next week, readers will get their first taste of the swift technology.

Text streaming technology Spritz works by placing words exactly where the brain wants them to be located, allowing users of websites, apps and wearable devices to absorb words at rates of up to 1,000 per minute.

“Just go in the subway, or to a bar – half the people are sitting there looking at their phones. So I totally see people consuming more information on the go,” said Frank Waldman, CEO and co-founder of Spritz, which offers licensing options for integration of the technology.

How it works

Reading content is flashed before the user with the optimal recognition point located at the specific place where users are already looking, allowing them to read without having to move their eyes. The technique is called rapid serial visual presentation.

Typically, 20 percent of reading time is spent processing content; 80 percent is spent physically moving the eyes from word to word. Spritz flashes up to thirteen characters at a time, eliminating the time spent on eye movement.

Users can adjust their rate of speed to anywhere between 100 words per minute and 1,000 words per minute.

To put it in perspective, humans generally speak at a rate of about 150 words per minute.

A need for speed

An associate professor in Munich, Spritz co-founder Maik Maurer was inspired to develop a prototype three years ago to help him tackle mountains of reading material.

“I was amazed that I could keep up with it at triple my reading speed. I thought, this is something we can probably stick into mobile phones, and websites, especially mobile sites,” said Waldman.

Tests conducted by the company have shown an increase of reading comprehension up to 400 words per minute. After that, comprehension decreases.

EBooks are controlled by distributors, and books are put into a format that makes it difficult to Spritz, Waldman said, so the company plans to work on making the technology available to users looking to blast through novels.

“The problem is, nobody has enough time,” he said. “So you won’t read unless you can read. And I think when you see people always looking at their phones it’s because they want to read, wherever they are. This technology allows them to do that.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



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