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7 ways Spritz speed reading may or may not change the future of tech

(Tech News) Spritz is a new technology for speed reading, and opinions vary widely. We’ve taken a deeper look at each technology it may or may not actually innovate.

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Spritzing helps you speed read, no lessons required

If you’ve been paying attention to the tech world recently, then you’ve probably heard about Spritz, an exciting new speed-reading technology with massive ambitions. The folks at Spritz want to change the way that everyone reads, well, everything.

Their technology is pretty simple.
Step 1: Set your reading speed anywhere from 100-1000 words per minute.
Step 2: Stare at the “Optimal Recognition Point” in a small box called a “redicle” on your phone, computer, tablet, smartwatch, house arrest anklet, etc.
Step 3: Continue staring as hundreds of words per minute individually fly by your eyes, and reap the benefits of faster reading AND greater retention.

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The science behind Spritz is equally straightforward. When reading, the eyes move from word to word, searching for each word’s “Optimal Recognition Point;” a point in every word that is located slightly to the left, and causes the brain to begin processing the meaning of the word.

When the eyes reach punctuation, the brain processes the meaning of the sentence as a whole. Fully 80% of the time you spend reading is searching for the ORP, while the remaining 20% is spent processing the meaning of what you’ve read. In other words, the movement of the eyes substantially holds back the brain’s potential.

Spritz positions every word in a way that takes eye movement out of the equation, allowing for much faster reading speeds and equal if not greater retention without any special training.

For obvious reasons, Spritz is getting a ton of hype in the news and in social media, hailing it as “the future of reading.” In the Spritz FAQs, they list several types of tech that they think could benefit from their product.

In an effort to figure out where Spritz will actually fit into the tech world, and if it is “the future of reading,” I’ve broken down how I imagine Spritz would work in each of these different areas.

1. Digital Books

After my first Spritz demo, I immediately thought about how I would never spritz a novel. Even at 600wpm, Spritz made my inner reading voice unbearably unnatural, and sound like a choppier and more robotic version of Siri. In the Spritz FAQs, they suggest quietly humming to cancel out your inner monologue, allowing yourself to read faster.

But why would I want to mute my inner voice or speed read my favorite novels?

I’ve talked to a few Spritz fans about this, and we’ve all agreed – we couldn’t enjoy spritzing a novel. Punctuation, sentence length, and general rhythm are the tools that the author uses to shape the reading experience. The author is a director, and the text is his movie. Speed up a suspenseful movie to 1.5x the normal speed and tell me if it’s the same experience. You’ll know what happened in the movie, but you won’t have experienced it like the director intended.

Read the following climax to a suspenseful novel, and then imagine you’d spritzed it:
The thief saw the flashing red and blue lights of the police car in his driveway as soon as he’d turned onto the street. Pulling into the driveway, he noticed that his front door was open, and that the police car was empty. He cautiously walked up to the door with his hand on his gun. Nervously, he peeked his head through the open door. The living room was empty. The house was quiet. Seeing no one, the thief slowly walked up the stairs. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Suddenly, the third stair creaked loudly and a voice from the top of the stairs shouted, “FREEZE!”

In the above passage, the author attempts to create a visual in the reader’s mind, as well as a feeling of suspense. Spritz’s artificial pace would speed through this scene, not allowing the reader to truly experience it. If you were to spritz this passage, you would know that the thief showed up at his house, saw a cop car, walked up some stairs, and was shouted at by an unknown voice. You would know these things; you wouldn’t have experienced them as a movie in your head like the author intended.

The above example demonstrates only one type of fiction. But I can’t imagine that Spritz would lend itself well to a satirical piece, or a novel that’s meant to be laugh-out-loud funny. Nor do I believe that Spritz would be ideal for creating any kind of visual world in the mind, effectively ruining any type of novel that isn’t written in Dan Brown’s uber-“factual” style. In my opinion, Spritz moves too quickly and replaces the reader’s imagination and interpretation with a cliff note-like summary, or Spritz distorts the reader’s natural subvocalization through its artificial reading speed. As an avid reader, Spritz offers me no added benefits, but takes away important subjective aspects of my reading experience.

As for non-fiction, informational texts, and news, I think Spritz could be an ideal medium. If I could easily spritz long news articles like I can any of the pages on the Spritz website, I would never fall behind on what’s going on in even the most remote corners of the world. At some point, I think most people have gotten sucked into Wikipedia and spent time going from article to article — imagine how much general knowledge a person could quickly learn via Spritz and Wikipedia.

2. Email

Is your business limited by the number of emails it receives on a daily basis? Spritz could greatly increase the productivity of the individual worker in businesses that struggle to keep up with overflowing inboxes. Rather than skimming emails and then going back to reread the crucial parts, your employees could quickly read the entirety of an email and retain more through Spritz. I believe Spritz could save time and painlessly increase productivity for most businesses in the digital age.

I think it’s completely subjective whether or not one chooses to spritz their personal emails. As I said with digital books, for me, Spritz takes the personality out of the text. My personal email is full of things I want to read and things I don’t want to read. If an email is something I want to read, then I’m not going to spritz it to save a few seconds. If an email is something I don’t want to read, then I’m simply not going to read it. I’m not going to suddenly start reading all of the ads, newsletters, and various emails that clutter my inbox just because Spritz lets me do it faster.

3. Social Media

The Spritz developers ask, “Twitter and Facebook would be great with Spritz, wouldn’t they?”

“No, and no,” I answer.

I scroll past the majority of posts in my Facebook Newsfeed and Twitter Feed. I simply do not want to read most of the inane things that people post to social media. I have absolutely no interest in spritzing my newsfeeds.

Even in a perfect world where my Facebook friends and the people I follow on Twitter post amazing content 24/7, I don’t need to race through my newsfeeds any faster than my brain already allows me. The option of right clicking to spritz a post that I want to read seems unnecessary. Do I really need to be able to read a 140-character tweet at a speed of 1000 words per minute?

4. Closed Captioning

“Ever been to a sports bar with 100 televisions? Wouldn’t it be great if you could follow along with your favorite game with no volume and spritz the comments real time as the announcers make them? We think it would be pretty cool too.”

Unless I missed something, I believe you have to be continually staring directly at the “redicle” to reap the benefits of Spritz. I’ve seen some GIFs of Spritz being demoed on various devices, and I couldn’t make sense of what I was reading because I started paying attention midway through the sentence. Closed captioning is helpful because I can be watching the game, turn away to trash talk a friend about his team, and then easily catch up when I turn back around because of closed captioning’s fragmented and slow-scrolling nature.

Or, let’s say the referees are reviewing a play, and the network is showing a replay. I can focus on the video replay, and then read what the announcer said because the closed captioning is always a sentence or so behind. If you were to replace closed captioning with a real time Spritz feed, it would be harder to watch both the replay and read what the announcers say because of Spritz’s speed and one-word-at-a-time format. You can read closed captions without concentrating too much on the scrolling captions. Spritzing requires direct attention; good luck watching the big game surrounded by obnoxious and drunken fans at a sports bar!

However, I think Spritz has great potential as a replacement for closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing community, as well as a replacement for the news ticker. In both of these cases, the viewer is concentrating more directly on the words, making Spritz a more logical next step than in the sports bar example.

5. Embedded Media

“Think about maps, photos, and videos with spritzing directly embedded inside of the media.”

This is an awesome idea. I imagine adding Spritz “redicles” above the pins that mark my travels on a world map. Spritz “redicles” could supplement captions that already exist. For example, in every online news article, there is a picture at the top that has a caption that says who or what is pictured. Embedding Spritz into these pictures would allow journalists and editors to add specific quotes directly into these pictures while using the already existing caption for general context.

I’m not exactly sure how one would use Spritz directly in a video, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t figure out a way. Pop-Up video of the 21st century?

6. Smartphones & SMS

“Oh yes. And, you can read your notifications or app updates without even opening the underlying application if you don’t want to.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if my next smartphone came preloaded with the option to spritz my text messages, news alerts, and other push notifications. However, I already disable push notifications on the majority of my apps that aren’t messaging or news related. I don’t believe it’s imperative that I immediately notice every time someone tweets at me. Nor do I ever want to receive notifications from a random app that I downloaded to burn a few hours in the Atlanta Airport. The notifications that I do receive are at most two sentences long. Do I really need Spritz for that?

I can’t imagine myself using the Spritz feature on my next smartphone very often, but that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t prefer it. I’m already a fast reader and tech-savvy, so notifications are a non-issue for me. If opening and reading a text or news alert is a hassle for you, then Spritz might be what the doctor ordered.

7. Wearable Tech

At the moment, I haven’t bought a smartwatch because I think the early models are sort of gimmicky. Yes, some of them can take pictures, make phone calls, use a variety of apps, track fitness, and receive notifications from the owner’s phone. But, I already have a $300 phone in my pocket that does most, if not all of these features better. People glance at their traditional watches to tell time; I don’t want to awkwardly stare at my smartwatch and press the side-buttons ten times just to read a single email. It’s doesn’t seem convenient to do any task that involves reading on a small screen.

Spritz will change all that.

Don’t want to stare at your smartwatch and press the buttons several times just to check your email? Well, now you can quickly and comfortably spritz an entire email, text, or notification. I believe that Spritz is the technology that will make the next smartwatches efficient and convenient to own. If wearable tech is going to be the next big trend, then we should expect smaller screens that aren’t ideal for most reading based uses. Spritz could be the major innovation that the industry needs to continue moving in this direction.

Final Thoughts

Spritz is an impressive project, and I believe it will successfully find its niche in future technologies. There are tons of speed-reading techniques, but Spritz seems like they’ve done their homework, and truly separated themselves from past methods. I can’t imagine that I’d use Spritz very often if my current phone, tablet, or laptop had the capability. But if I decide to buy a smartwatch, you can bet I’m going to choose the option that comes with Spritz. Unsurprisingly, Samsung has decided to include Spritz technology on the Samsung GS5 phone and Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch. Depending on how their experiment with the technology goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the option to spritz started showing up everywhere.

So is Spritz “the future of reading?” Maybe, maybe not. Traditional reading won’t become equivalent to hieroglyphs just because Spritz has entered the mainstream. Though we live in a world where time is money and Spritz can definitely save time, I can’t see spritzing becoming the universally preferred option for most types of reading. However, I think many businesses will successfully experiment with Spritz’s inherent power to save time and increase productivity. Also, I think Spritz could be the missing piece of the puzzle in the wearable tech trend that takes products that could be considered gimmicks, and makes them functional and practical pieces of daily life.

Now that Spritz has “come out of hiding,” it’s going to start spreading quickly and evolving beyond these original areas in ways no one has yet anticipated. I’d be shocked if someone doesn’t come up with a way to use Spritz for advertising in the next six months. Only time will tell what the future holds in store for Spritz, and I’m excited to see what Spritz’s future holds in store for us.

Ryan Kane is a Senior at Duke University and a Brand Ambassador for Snaps, a social media startup. He's currently searching for post-graduation employment in the tech industry, and plans on working in the world of apps and social media. Check out his LinkedIn to learn more about him or follow him on Twitter to keep up with his musings on the latest news in technology.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tinu

    March 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    What speed reading is truly needs to be communicated before people try to build things around achieving that end. Speed reading is NOT supposed to involve your inner voice. It’s meant to be the ability to look at a group of text and make your brain process that text without sub-vocalization, or your inner voice.

    For some people, this might ruin things like novels IF they don’t know to drop their sub-vocalization, or what happens when they do. When I speed read a novel, I enjoy the novel More, because I’m absorbing it almost like I would going to see a play. I don’t sound out the words I”m reading in my head because the picture of what I’m reading comes about much faster.

    On the other hand, if I’m reading someone who is particularly skilled at wordplay, or writes poetically, like Faulkner or Morrison, If I’m reading FOR the pleasure of sub-vocalization, I simply don’t speed read. You can turn it off.

    But if you do any kind of research, or constantly have to read technical text or the news, you can get through all of that so much faster if you learn to speed read the way it’s traditionally taught.

    Thanks for the great article.

  2. Brian D. Meeks

    April 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Fantastic article.

    For me, I agree that I wouldn’t use it to read novels…with one exception, my own.

    I’m a novelist and the last read through (after the editor, beta readers, and Mom and Dad) can be painful and often unproductive. I’m just too darn familiar with the words that are supposed to be there to catch if I’ve mistakenly used site for sight.

    This tool might be a great tool for finding those hidden errors that don’t jump off the page.

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Russia vetoed cryptocurrency and came back with CryptoRuble

(TECH NEWS) Russia put a hard pass on other cryptocurrencies in their country so that they could hop in the crypto-game with their own CryptoRuble.

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Just days after The American Genius reported that the Russian Central Bank would attempt to block access to cryptocurrency trading cites, the Coin Telegraph has reported that the Russian government will issue its very own cryptocurrency, the CryptoRuble.

The report cited local Russian papers, who quoted the minister of communications, Nikolay Nikiforov.

Earlier this week, head of the Central Bank, Sergei Shvetsov, said that he would work with the Prosecutor General’s Office to ban Russian citizens from accessing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, calling such currencies a “negative phenomena for our markets” and a “pyramid scheme.”

Now it appears that the Kremlin will create its own cryptocurrency – one it can keep an eye on — which, some might argue, defeats the entire purpose of cryptocurrency.

However, like other cryptocurrencies the CryptoRuble will be based on blockchain and will presumably help prevent online fraud.

CryptoRubles will be exchangeable with regular Rubles, although the systems of exchange have not yet been set up. Experts think that Russia is hoping to stimulate e-commerce without the need for foreign money markets, which will allow them to have more independence from the United States.

According to Nikiforov, the Russian government is setting up its own cryptocurrency under the assumption that if they don’t, other European governments will.

Said NIkiforov, “I confidently declare that we run CryptoRuble for one simple reason: if we do not, then after two months our neighbors in the EurAsEC will.”

Traders using CryptoRubles will be asked to provide documentation of retail transactions and services rendered – or pay a 13 percent tax for undocumented transactions, leaving a wide loophole for money laundering.

Critics say that Russia is trying to facilitate, while also profiting from money laundering; that the Kremlin is stealing the market from other cryptocurrencies; and that the CryptoRuble fundamentally defies the spirit of decentralization that inspired other cryptocurrencies.

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Microsoft’s overseas email storage piqued the Supreme Court’s interest

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft has been in a pretty large dispute about storing user emails abroad and the Supreme Court has taken an interest in it.

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case that will decide whether or not U.S. law enforcement officials can force tech companies to turn over emails and data stored in overseas servers.

The case will review a lower court decision made in 2013 after federal officials attempted to obtain emails from Microsoft that would provide evidence for drug trafficking cases.

At that time, Microsoft refused to comply with the government, even though they had a warrant, instead taking the case to court, claiming that the U.S. government did not have the right to access data stored in servers in Ireland.

The court of appeals ruled in favor of Microsoft, citing a 1986 digital privacy law that allows law enforcement to obtain warrants for electronic communications, but not if the data is stored outside of the United States.

Judge Susan Carney said of the law, “Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the statue envision the application of its warrant provisions overseas.”

The Trump Administration and the Justice Department say that this ruling has majorly blocked efforts to prosecute criminals.

“Under this opinion, hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes — ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud — are being or will be hampered by the government’s inability to obtain electronic evidence,” said Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall.

Because Microsoft stores data and communications closest to the user’s location, Wall said that the lower court’s decision made it all too easy for terrorists and other criminals to hide their communications by claiming to live in a foreign country when signing up for an account.

Microsoft argues that, instead of handing this decision over to the Supreme Court, legislators should update the 1986 law.

“The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud.” wrote Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith in a blog.

“We believe that rather than arguing over an old law in court, it is time for Congress to act by passing new legislation.”

In Congress, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) are pushing for just such an update with a piece of legislation called the Stored Communications Act.

Microsoft further argued that allowing U.S. law enforcement to obtain data from other countries was an “incursion” on those nations’ sovereignty, which would make U.S. citizens more vulnerable to foreign governments.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” said Smith.

The Justice Department says that, along with Microsoft, Google, Verizon, and Yahoo have all stopped complying with search warrants since the lower court’s decision.

The Supreme Court will hear the case early in 2018 and hope to have a decision by June.

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iPhone X is driving prices up and customers away

(TECH NEWS) Apple’s new iPhone X has a pretty hefty price tag which is causing many long-time Apple fans to question their brand loyalty.

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Admit it – you were shocked when you heard that Apple was putting out a new phone that cost a thousand dollars or more.

So, it should really come as no surprise that customers – even committed Apple lovers – are having such bad sticker shock that they may continue using outdated devices, buy an older model of iPhone, or even try a different brand altogether rather than cough up that kind of cash.

Apple fans were stoked when they heard that the new iPhone X was coming out, especially because changes to the last few models have been sort of underwhelming. They hoped the new iPhone X would really be something special.

But when Apple revealed that the iPhone X with 64 GB of storage would cost $999, many balked. An iPhone X with 256 GB of storage will cost you even more at $1,149. This is the most expensive phone Apple has released to date.

Usually when a new iPhone is released, customers line up to get their hands on them and even form waiting lists as Apple furiously attempts to ship them quickly enough to keep up with the demand. This time, we’re not so sure that’s what’s going to happen.

Sure, price-conscious customers have never fallen under the iPhone spell in the first place. But Apple is banking on their most loyal fans to generate sales for the iPhone X. We won’t know for sure until the phone is released on November 3, and until Apple reports on its first and second quarter earnings.

But if fan forums are any indication, Apple might actually have a hard sell here.

A Reddit thread for hardcore Apple fans reveals that even diehards are hesitant to buy the iPhone X at its current price, and some are even outraged and dismayed that Apple would be so bold as to charge a thousand dollars.

Said one commentator, “I think the iPhone X will be a solid phone and I certainly wouldn’t mind having one, but to me the price is definitely overboard and Apple is starting to disappoint me a little with some of their changes (or overall lack thereof) to iOS.”

Some Apple fans are even switching to Samsung, or buying the recently released iPhone 8, which hasn’t particularly impressed anyone either.

Research by KeyBanc Capital shows that many customers are even “buying iPhone 7 in lieu of the new iPhone 8, given the lack of significant enhancements to the new phone.”

The iPhone 8, at $699, doesn’t seem to have enough new features to justify the price hike over the iPhone 7, which is $549.

The message from customers is loud and clear: Apple needs to put out something truly impressive, with some exciting new updates, if it expects its customers to pay hundreds of dollars more for the latest upgrade.

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