Friday, 7 March 2014
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.