An interesting new approach to human document understanding is presented by the Boston based startup company „Spritz“. They believe that human understanding of text (i.e. reading) is slowed down by the eye-movement on the text. Therefore they have developed a new representation that streams the text to your eyes without the necessity to change the focus.
A technology, by the way, that we have been using already 15 years ago for data entry interfaces where the field recognition result is displayed always at the same location while the image snippets are streamed through the screen. This helped us at that time to speed up data entry to more than 300 characters per minute.
The claim of Spritz is that you can:
„Read a 1000-page book in 10 hours“
corresponding to a reading speed of 1000 words per minute. Standard text reading speed is 210 words per minute.
The software was originally developed for mobile devices to allow effective reading on small screens. The text is streamed to a little window with elaborated highlighting of a character in the middle. This works because human (adult) readers are able to capture a complete word at once starting form on of the middle characters.
You can try yourself on the Spritz homepage in various languages. http://www.spritzinc.com/
It actually works pretty well also on a desktop. With German I easily manage 600 words per minute, for English (as non native speaker) I find it hard to get beyond 400.
Interesting for our side is the fact that this method actually is very similar to document understanding technologies and classification. Typically for classification a document it analyzed word by word (streamed) by an algorithm and the content is derived from a match with stored patterns from a trained set of features. So this might be an interesting approach to bring machine learning and human understanding closer.
The one question I would have here is exhaustion. The current test windows only stream quite short texts. I was wondering how long you can do this before you get tired. Especially when you want to read a complete book in 10 hours. This is definitively one advantage of the computer that we always pitch as a big advantage – it never gets tired.