Technology: What makes a justifiable use case?

By | March 4, 2014
Spritz is a very interesting application. Although I agree that it does have some very useful uses – especially on limited-screen personal mobile devices such as Pebble or other SmartWatches, its application to speed up conventional reading may be less than appropriate, even when effective. And undoubtedly, it is not the only technology that may bring unintentional consequences with it in the process of bringing out some benefit.

How Spritz works
Conventional reading: When reading, only around 20% of your time is spent processing content. The remaining 80% is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word…

Spritz does two things differently: it lines up the optimal recognition point of words, and flashes words to the reader according to the rhythm of reading, which includes natural pauses.

Why should there be concern?
Chronic health problems are emerging at an unprecedented rate. This is quite likely linked to the emergence of digital technologies and the resulting transformation on our daily habits. For example: too much desk work leads to back problems, chronic pain, and bad typing posture leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Eye fatigue is a known condition, where eye muscles become strained and certain muscles 'stiffen up', just as you may have one index finger noticably stiffer than the other due to overuse of your touchscreen smartphone. As eyes are one of the most sensitive organs we have, I'm not certain that stiff eyes and tunnel-vision syndrome are worth the tradeoff for faster reading.

My point, though, is not that eye fatigue is going to come onto the list of health issues to watch out for. My point is that novel technology – regardless of the benefits it brings – may likely have some negative side effects, and these side effects are usually not listed in the marketing prospect. And as community, we have an ethical responsibility to think these things through, and lay open the consequences in a transparent manner to allow everyone to make informed decisions on the expected tradeoffs when jumping onto any one bandwagon.

Finally, for the record: I think Spritz is a great application, and I think it is worth taking a look at. Even if it is not the perfect tool for healthily reading large texts, it is great for occasional, urgent reads such as an SMS, a voice-to-text answering machine recording, and triaging mails or messages on your watch or in Glass. It will be exciting to see how their application market unfolds as personal computing devices become smaller and ubiquotous!

/via +Gideon Rosenblatt 

Blog | Spritz
Why Spritz Works: It’s All About the Alignment of Words. By Maik Maurer & Jamie Locke February 16, 2014. To understand Spritz, you must understand Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). RSVP is a common speed-reading technique used today. However, RSVP was originally developed for …

0 thoughts on “Technology: What makes a justifiable use case?

  1. Lee Smallwood

    +Sophie Wrobel thanks for the ping… I've been so wrapped up in development that I've been 'away' from most engaging convo's like these…

    Re: sarcasm engine – we're currently running at approx 60-65% accuracy in English. It won't be ready until we hit 80% accuracy – which is the human equivalent for comprehending if a phrase was sarcastic or not.

    Re contextual pauses, I can really see a use there for apps like spritz – it would be interesting to integrate and see what people think. I'll be opening up our API to developers soon (ish) so maybe someone will take up the challenge 😉

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  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Gideon Rosenblatt It is actually (medically) validated on numerous counts that vision does improve marginally after long trips where glasses wearers lost their glasses early on the trip – consistent with your observation. I've adopted a battery of eye exercises to maintain my vision, and I'd assume the regular doctor's advice of 'make sure to glance in the distance at least once every 20 minutes' is also helpful in preventing further computing-related vision degredation.

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  3. T. Pascal

    They have shown that difficulties in reading improve cognition, apprehension and solving problems.

    I think we should be using harder to read applications, like smaller fonts and conflicting foreground and background colours!

    Reply
  4. Gideon Rosenblatt

    Good points, +Sophie Wrobel. Even just reading on screen with old-style layout hurts my eyes after a while, and I suspect has led to premature degradation of my vision. I suspect this because when I go for long trips where I'm not online much, my eyesight seems to improve some by the end of the trip. Hmmm…. 

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  5. Mike L.

    Use case? Skim a long text for buzzwords…get an overview over something, an article, maybe even an email to decide if it's worth a careful read

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  6. Ninja On Rye

    I wonder about the possibilities of something Spritz-like to aid in reading comprehension.  As you and others highlight, it's good for your generic reading, where you are pretty much able to just run over the content – less so for something technical.
    But still, even with simple stuff, as it is it can be easy to miss out on something like "I'm going to the other movie" – what about the possibilities for the app to pause on things that modify the context?  Small pauses in important areas (as opposed to reading pauses) could really elevate an app.

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