For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Want to read the IPKat at 1,000 words per minute? Spritz it…

This one is about a new piece of technology that might very well change the way we read on a screen, something most lawyers spend rather a lot of time doing these days. In writing it up I may stray into a little bit of tech blogging, but if Eleonora can get away with a touch of celebrity blogging, then why not.
Spritz is a remarkable piece of technology which takes written content and sort of streams it to the reader from a single spot on a desktop, tablet or mobile screen, word by word. The technology identifies the “Optimal Recognition Point” of a word (apparently the point in the word which our eyes and brains focus on to recognise it) and centres the word in the stream accordingly. By doing so, it cuts out the estimated 80% of reading time we spend moving our eyes from word to word and further optimises the reading experience. The makers, Spritz Technologies, Inc, are seeking patent protection for the technology around the world.
The technology really needs to be experienced to be understood, so hopefully these animated gifs will assist (if they don't work on your device, I highly recommend having a look at the next link). This gif shows the tech at 250 words per minute, a starting speed: 

This next one is 500 words per minute, and one can apparently get up to around 1,000:

You can get more Spritz-ing practice on the company’s website.
It looks like the plan for the technology is to roll it into apps designed to serve the ever-more popular mobile and device market, where small screens tend to limit the traditional presentation of text and other information. It takes only a little imagination to consider the possibilities, with integration into any of the new and forthcoming wearable technologies an obvious starting point.
What does this have to do with intellectual property? There is the patent angle: the patent linked above features 85 claims many of which will need to be considered in light of the limitations on patenting methods for performing mental acts (ie, reading) and computer programs in some jurisdictions (including Europe). Spritz is also another example of a clever piece of technology that looks to change the way the consumer interacts with existing content. This is just the sort of technology that so frequently comes into conflict with copyright law, as an ever growing list of case law demonstrates. In Europe, we’ve had TVCatchup (a service which allows consumers to watch "live" streams of free to air of television broadcasts on their computers and smart phones); its parallel in the US in Aereo; the great Meltwater saga (concerning an online news monitoring service; which has considered the legality of internet browsing); and Svensson (which looked at online linking), not to mention the great Google Books debate. I could go on. These are all difficult cases, because they generally seek to apply laws which years later have to be gently massaged or painfully twisted to fit a technology which no one had thought about when the laws were made. All very interesting for lawyers, but a challenge for the entrepreneurs and inventors who keep coming up with (and commercialising) these ideas.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A similar idea here (the copyright notice on the page says it was started in 2006): http://spreeder.com/

That said, (without looking at the patent) Spritz does seem easier to use, so there's probably a fair amount of inovation over spreeder. Notably, spreeder just seems to centre the words on the page.

Now I need to stare out the window a bit... I think spritzing thier FAQ page (with a white wall behind the screen) just broke my blink reflex.

Derek Freyberg said...

The issue to me is not whether I can scan words past my eyes faster using technology such as Spritz (let's accept that I can for the moment) but whether I gain by doing so. Will I remember as well what I read using Spritz compared to what I read the old-fashioned way, moving my eyes along each line? Or will Spritz just be a new way of causing eyestrain?

Ron said...

When I was a UK Examiner under the 1949 Act, the bulk of the manual search material was letter-press printed UK specifications, which, like most of the world's patent offices that type-set their specifications, were printed in two columns. The column width was sufficiently narow that you soon developed the technique of scanning the text by only moving your eyes vertically, centred on the middle of the column. Peripheral vision allowed comprehension without moving the eye horizontally.

The early 1977-Act specs were typeset in a single column using a small font, and they were slower to digest as the lines were too long to use the vertical scanning technique.

One problem that I have found in some modern offices is that the ambient lighting seems to have been designed has been designed with people reading from computer screens in mind, resulting in light levels that are not really high enough to read small print comfortably. Recessed downlighters that throw deep shadows are particularly awful. I used to use my own Anglepoise (RTM)-type table lamp with a traditional pearl GLS tungsten bulb when poring over printed matter.

The patent specifications I had to deal with nearly always required reading the description in connection with drawings, more often than not several figures simultaneously spread over several sheets with orthogonal orientations, so for me, working from electronic copies on a screen was not a viable option.

It was however ok for things like scanning through published EPO decisons, where there was little need to refer to other pages, and teh EPO's sensible use of Courier (a type font that used to be recommended for submitting articles for publication, as fixed pitch text is easier for speed readers to assimilate) and 1 1/2 line pitch makes for easier reading.

Anonymous said...

While this does seem terribly clever, I think it fails for the two types of reading I usually do.

For what I'll call technical or analytical reading (i.e., proper work stuff) it fails because it will be far, far too easy to impart meaning based on what you assumed you read. As we all know, this can be fatal in our line of work.

The second type of reading is reading for pleasure, such as reading a novel. Here I think it fails because it seems to me like it will strip the emotion from the text. I doubt I'd be able to get lost in my imagination while words are pouring into my eyes at 500 wpm.

I suppose there is an element of training and adjustment involved, so these conclusions are probably premature. I can also see use cases in between the two scenarios given above.

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