Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has 76,944 words that span 309 pages. How long would it take you to read that? If you have an average reading speed of 200 words per minute, it will take nearly six and a half hours to get through Harry’s first year of Hogwarts. Thanks to a new program called Spritz, that time should be shaved down to a mere 77 minutes. Seriously.
The premise is based on a what Spritz calls a “optimal recognition point” (ORP) within a word that allows you to identify it. They believe that significantly more time is spent moving your eyes along the page and searching for the next ORP than is actually spent processing the word. They designed the program to center the words along the ORP, which is featured in red. Then, all the user has to do is keep reading the words as they pop up one at a time.
The speed at which the words pop up can be set by the individual user. Speeds start at 250 wpm and go up in increments of 50 all the way to 1000 wpm. They have released a few images to illustrate how the text can appear at different speeds:
The base speed of 250 wpm:
Sure, you can see words pop up quickly, but how much does the reader actually understand? Reading comprehension quizzes have been given to test subjects after using Spritz, and while novices with the program scored about as well as those who read the passages traditionally on paper, users who had grown accustomed to Spritz scored higher than their traditional counterparts.
Of course, there are some who are viewing Spritz with a healthy dose of skepticism. Critics claim that it is similar to the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) program developed in the mid-1970s that sought to achieve the same goal. Studies since then have shown that RSVP works well for reading a few sentences at a time, but long passages are not retained as well.
Spritz developers acknowledge the shortcomings of RSVP and claim they have overcome some of the key faults after years of research. RSVP centered the word in the screen, not along the ORP, which still forces your eye to track the word before it can be recognized. Spritz also breaks up longer words into 13-character-long chunks, which their research has shown that most people do when confronted with long words anyway.
Image credit: Spritz
There hasn’t been a date released for when we can all download Spritz and finish the average novel in the amount of time it takes to wait in line at the DMV. It is incredibly exciting to think that the time it takes to read all 587,287 words of War and Peace can be reduced from nearly 49 hours on paper to 9.8 hours with Spritz, so long as you follow the advice of The Doctor: "Don't Blink. Blink and you're dead.* Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't Blink. Good Luck."
*No, Spritz won’t really kill you if you blink… I think.