“For five millennia, humans have read linearly. It is surprising that this convention has lasted. Rather than correcting for our weaknesses, linear reading exacerbates them. The problem lies in the saccade, the quivering motion of the fovea from one fixation point to the next. These transitions, which are unconscious, aren’t smooth. Frequently, saccades miss their target, and our eyes slip from the line or regress along it. Recovering costs us time.
Spritz, a Boston-based startup, intends to fix this. On its Web site, the company’s founders assert that “only around 20% of your time is spent processing content” when reading. “The remaining 80% is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word.” They have accordingly developed technology to obviate the need for this movement. Text appears in what they call the “redicle”: a rectangular window designed to float in the upper portion of an electronic screen, inside which up to thirteen letters at a time strobe into visibility. The background is white, the font is black, and the single-character optimal recognition point (O.R.P.)—a neologism denoting the ideal letter for the reading eye to fixate on—is set off in an attractive red. (Or another color of the user’s choice.) The result is a reading experience that is tailored to the dimensions of the fovea. Text streams in, word by word. As the company asserts, the redicle “not only reduces the number of times your eyes move” but “also decreases the number of times your eyes pass over words for your brain to understand them.” Adults read linearly at around three hundred words a minute; Spritz promises rates of up to a thousand, and also greater comprehension.”