Why does an average human read with the speed of 200 word per minute?
There a few reasons, but the main one is that usually we pronounce everything we read in our heads and that takes a lot of time! It doesn’t help much with the understanding of the material we are reading, but it is what we naturally do.
The other big reason, although this one is a lot smaller, is the eye movement. It takes time for us to move our eyes from one word to another and then all the way back to the next line of text.
So how can we improve?
There are people who read fast. Usually they do it by glancing at a bigger portion of the text. Instead of reading the text word by word, as so many of us do, they read 2-3 words, or even the whole line of text. Imagine if you could read the whole line of text by just glancing at it? Then you would only need to move your eyes from the top of the page to the bottom with no left to right (or right to left) eye movement.
Learning this technique is not easy. Fortunately in our age there are technologies which could help us to read faster even without hours of practice. There are different ways software could help us, but in general they solve the same two problems. They eliminate the eye movement and they force us to switch from one portion of the text to another fast enough to prevent us from reading that text in our heads.
Software I have personally tried.
By far this one is the most interesting solution I have seen. They go one step further then other systems by highlighting the most important portion of the word which our eyes should focus on. But it’s enough of me talking. Head over the their website and try it yourself right of their homepage.
But Spritz is just a patented technology, they don’t really provide any final products. What they do is allowing other companies to use their technology in their own products. Samsung used to partner with them for their Samsung Gear devices. And there are other product and services around which implement Spritz as well, but nothing I could personally use in my day to day life as far as I could see.
Spreeder looked interesting enough for me to buy their software, but I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping that this software would allow to me to speed read anything including the emails I receive and website articles I read. My hope was that I could just copy and paste the content into their application and then press the run button. It doesn’t exactly work that way. Before you can Spreed anything you first need to create a new item in your library by giving it a name, specifying the author, etc. Only then you can hit the run button.
I’m sure there are a lot of people who would and do enjoy their products, but it isn’t for me.
I have shared my disappointment about Spreeder on Twitter and people from UseClark offered me to try out their plugin for Google Chrome. I don’t usually use Chrome, but decided to give it a go and was really impressed. Once activated UseClark extension removes all of the distractions from the website including ads, menus, etc, and focus on the content of the article. Once you hit the play button the application starts highlighting the portion of the sentence you need to focus on. It’s easier to show then to explain, so here is a quick demo I have made:
One interesting fact I have noticed about this extension is that it doesn’t eliminate the eye movement and I have conflicted feelings about it. On one hand I wonder if it would become very tiring for eyes to move with this speed for a prolonged time. On the other hand it does help to understand where in the article you are which provides some context. The other thing which I’m not particularly happy about is that the application is pausing before scrolling down. You can see it on the 21 second of my demo. Not sure how this could be solved though. Maybe a faster scrolling could help or maybe slower but more consistent scrolling could be an option, so that the page scrolls while you read. Not sure if that would be any better, but it would be interesting to try out. Also the extension breaks every now and then on scrolling, it may scroll and then get stuck, so I have to manually switch to a different sentence to continue.
Looking at UseClark it seems that there are many more applications to come and I would be very excited to see what they are.
Have you every used any speed reading technologies?
Tell me about your experience in the comments and I would be very interested to try learn what you think and try out new products.