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New speed reading technology might change reading forever

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Imagine if you could read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in a mere 77 minutes. Or latest YA favorite Divergent in just 105 minutes. Or a huge classic novel — like Les Miserables, which has roughly 560,000 words of text — in nine hours.

You can speed read through these books — as well as emails, news articles and blogs — thanks to tech company Spritz, which is promising to change reading forever by altering the way readers view and process text. No more poring over lengthy sentences or losing your place on a page — instead, Spritz  is offering readers the chance to process text at speeds as high as 1,000 words per minute.

Spritz will be releasing its technology on the yet-to-be-released Samsung Galaxy S5 and Samsung Gear 2 watch, the company recently announced at the Mobil World Congress in Barcelona. And with the phone or watch, readers will be able to process text one word at a time at various scrolling speeds. Whether one opts for 250 or 1,000 words per minute, Spritz is counting on making the brain change the way it expects and analyzes texts.

It turns out that Spritz is basing its technology on a well-established speed reading method called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. Based on the same premise that trained speed readers use, the special display technology saves readers the time of reading a page from left to right by placing text at one spot at a specified speed. Add to that some fancy jargon called “Optimal Recognition Point” — ORP for short — which, according to Spritz’s blog, refers to highlighting certain text red so that your eye never needs to move from a central viewing point, and you’ve got the recipe for tackling the Bible in 13 hours flat.

But what happens when the eye processes words — instead of relying on the brain to analyze context? The Boston-based start up isn’t the first to develop a speed reading app — vapps like Velocity and Speed Reading Trainer for Android  can be downloaded for just a few bucks — but EW has confirmed they are pitchings its technology to global tech giants like Google, Yahoo and Apple.

So will Spritz prove an effective tool at tackling the hundreds of emails that seem to flood the average corporate employee daily? Or will authors find themselves competing for audiences for whom the story, instead of its delivery and prose, matters most? And what happens when the core of what makes great books great — the composed phrases that make us laugh, cry, ache and crave more — gets reduced to mere words? We know that technology  in the form of  e-readers has given a new generation a platform by which to consume books, but will the love and pleasure of reading be changed forever if pleasure can be reduced down to WPM? Are we saying “hello” to a new age of Cliff Notes — or beginning the process or saying “goodbye” to a form of communication that’s been established for centuries?

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