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I’m usually a slow reader, and it takes me 40 effective hours to shoot through a standard size book. My colleague gave me a tip to read books using redicle technology developed by Spritzinc (where you can try it). Downloading the app, I was slow at first, but after a while, I realized I could increase speed without losing content. On my test book, I’ve used 5 hours and are expecting to use 8 hours to read the entire book.

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The company says:

Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays. Scrolling, pinching, and resizing a reading area doesn’t fix the problem and only frustrates people. Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page. Spritz makes streaming your content easy and more comfortable, especially on small displays. Our “Redicle” technology enhances readability even more by using horizontal lines and hash marks to direct your eyes to the red letter in each word, so you can focus on the content that interests you. Best of all, Sprit’s patent-pending technology can integrate into photos, maps, videos, and websites to promote more effective communication.

Yeah, sales talk – I thought, but it actually works. Question is how. Is it that simple that we spend time moving our eyes around that gets us to lose focus on reading while reading? Alternatively, is it that the technology present words one at a time at a predetermined speed?

The closest thing (I know of) referencing word recognition is Ph. D Susan Weinschenk informed the community in her article 100 Things You Should Know About People: #19 — It’s a Myth That All Capital Letters Are Inherently Harder to Read that the shape theory is wrong:

It’s parallel letter recognition, not word shape — the old theory on word shapes comes from a psycholinguist named Cattell who came up with that theory in 1886. There was some evidence for it, but more recent research shows that it is letters you are recognizing and anticipating. You don’t recognize words by the shape of the word. You recognize familiar letter sequences. The research strongly suggests that you recognize all the letters in a word at the same time, and then you use the recognition of those letters to recognize the word.

So combining these theories suggests that - Letter recognition to word recognition and - No eye movement and consistent speed

However, is it as simple as that, to increase reading speed five times?

  • Very interesting. I typically take 5 to 6 hours for a standard book (a 50 K words novel, textbooks are another matter because reading speed is not the bottleneck there). And I have never used the technology you reference, but I have tried applications which would either a) show one line at a time, or b) scroll the screen such that a new line appears at the speed I'm reading. I find both disorienting, my speed falls, I have trouble concentrating on the text. I wonder if there is some kind of parsing technique I have and you don't, and if this new tech compensates for not having it. – Rumi P. Oct 6 '14 at 10:32
  • @RumiP. While reading I often get cought up on words which are difficult/strange/odd to me. It slows me down, and I focus on other things than reading. With this technique, I can't. I just have to move on and still get what is being presented to me. Maybe you're right, that you have something I don't and this helps me to get on track and beyond with speed reading. – Benny Skogberg Oct 6 '14 at 10:50
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The core idea is that Spritz removes saccades.
What are saccades?

From this article:

When you read a word, your eyes naturally fixate at one point in that word, which visually triggers the brain to recognize the word and process its meaning. Each time you see text that is not centered properly on the ORP position, your eyes naturally will look for the ORP to process the word and understand its meaning. This requisite eye movement creates a “saccade”, a physical eye movement caused by your eyes taking a split second to find the proper ORP for a word. Every saccade has a penalty in both time and comprehension, especially when you start to speed up reading.

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In fact, Saccades take time.
How much? Wikipedia says:

Saccades are the fastest movements produced by the human body. The peak angular speed of the eye during a saccade reaches up to 900°/s in humans. [...] Saccades to an unexpected stimulus normally take about 200 milliseconds (ms) to initiate, and then last from about 20–200 ms, depending on their amplitude (20–30 ms is typical in language reading)

(Extra) personal opinion:
I've been using Spritz for a while now and my speed has increased. I was reading up to 550/600 wpm before (with traditional fast reading courses + apps like Heiku one) and now I can read up to 1000 wpm (technical reading is a bit more difficult, but for narrative it's ok).

  • 1
    Is "removes saccades" really true, or is "reduces saccades" more appropriate? Saccades aren't a by-product of reading, they are a basic element of our eye's/brain's scan pattern. Perhaps a particular organization of data can reduce that scan pattern, but can it really remove it? – Evil Closet Monkey Oct 6 '14 at 17:07
  • @Eleonora Thanks for this great answer. One would have guessed that the little marker, where I focus while reading, had something to do with it. Even if it doesn't remove the saccades, it may minimize to the extent where it doesn't have any effect on reading speed. – Benny Skogberg Oct 7 '14 at 6:10
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    See this abstract for a summary of research supporting this answer. – user1757436 Oct 14 '14 at 14:27
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Saccades are a factor, but it's not the main factor based on what I've studied about speed reading.

When we learn to read, we often vocalize sentences in our minds, and furthermore, our brain has the capability to recognize words in rapid succession faster than we usually read them.

In order to read faster, you're taught to "see" the whole line very quickly and take in the words faster. You still read from left to right, but you do it at the maximum speed, avoiding mental vocalization of the words. But then you have the problem of focusing on your speed and that makes it harder to focus on comprehending what you're reading. Also you might read too fast to comprehend.

A mechanism that shows you word after word based on data estimating the time you actually need to comprehend the word - and no more - allows you to speed read without trying, without going faster or slower than you should.

One more thing I'd point out is that the brain is also really good at recognizing word groups, so although you'd have your saccades described in Eleonora's answer, using the same concept of flashing words one at a time could be modified to flash groups of words and possibly improve speed and comprehension further. In fact, I'm sure I've seen an app somewhere that does just that.

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