Let’s Talk Tech: The Future of Reading, Writing & Typing. Part 1.
From Caveman to Tech-Whizz
Mankind has been reading and writing for thousands of years, dating back as far as the 4th millennium BC. More recently (but before anyone who is reading this blog was born) the advent of the typewriter and QWERTY keyboard between the 1860’s and 1870’s made it possible for mankind to write their thoughts or stories using a keyboard and a typeface. Fast forward to today, a 21st century technological landscape where tech innovations occur on a daily basis, however, the means by which most of us read, write and type are still based on the ideas of our non-technologically inclined predecessors.
So why hasn’t reading, writing and typing evolved with the technology we use each and every day? The answer – it has, we just haven’t widely adopted these techniques yet! This blog post explores some of the tech innovations in reading and writing, offering some tips as to how you can improve your efficiency in these skills. Next week, we’ll take it a step further and look at some great innovations in the field of typing.
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Reading & Writing:
Let’s start from the beginning – the English reading and writing process as we know it, began in the 6th century BC. Today, much of our reading is done on innovative platforms such as the screens of monitors, tablets, mobile devices and even wearable tech. Despite these platforms evolving, the process by which we read has shown little evolution. With screen sizes getting smaller and the abundance of online information growing rapidly – it makes sense that the means by which we read is in need of innovation. Below are 3 great tools to do exactly that!
1: Handwriting to Text
By no means a new innovation, handwriting recognition has been around since the early 1980’s. Handwriting recognition uses a tool called optical character recognition to scan the image of handwritten text and convert it to the closest text match. The earliest versions of this technology appeared in 1980’s versions of MS-DOS computer systems, based on physical pen movement sensing on computer and PDA devices. Today, around 30 years after it’s inception, handwriting to text has evolved and can be utilized in a variety of ways.
The second, is through document scanners such as the Doxie Go, which scans your handwritten document and uses software to convert it to text. (This method also works with regular scanners, when paired with PC or Mac versions of apps like Evernote and OneNote).
The third, is a bit more interesting and involves the use of smart-pens, such as the LiveScribe. These smart-pens require you to write on special dotted paper such that your writing movements are tracked in relation to the dots. When you’re done writing your document, you’ll have a physical copy on the paper as well as a digital copy stored on the pen’s memory – this can be synced to your computer, phone or tablet.
The fourth and final method in this category is the use of a tablet and stylus. This one is fairly straightforward and many well renowned tablet developers such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have built in software to convert your handwriting to text.
The overall notion of handwriting to text presents a strong advantage in the user’s ability to convert their input of easy and familiar (and often messy!) handwriting into an output of clean and clear text in a chosen font. I have used the first and fourth methods in this regard and have found them to be extremely handy for converting notes from class or for jotting down something quickly on a tablet.
Summly is a text summarization tool that allows users to read news and articles in a summarized form, identifying the key points and reducing the unnecessary surrounding text. It is based on a genetic algorithm that mimics human thought to extract important information. The result is the ability for users to consume important information at a faster rate, and for publishers to be heard and understood faster by their readers.
The tool was created in 2011 by British entrepreneur and programmer, Nick D’Aloisio (who was just 15 years of age when Summly launched!). In 2012, Summly was announced as a winner of the iOS App Store “Best Apps of 2012” for intuitive touch, and has gone forth to claim wide recognition and numerous awards. In March 2013, Yahoo acquired Summly to create the app “Yahoo News Digest,” using the technology of Summly to concisely summarize news for their readers. The interface of the app looks like this picture below:
My experience of Summly and the Yahoo News Digest have been positive. I find the apps to be intuitive, user friendly and a great way to consume important news and content in a short timeframe. Download it on your app store or watch this video if you’d like to find out more about how it all works.
Spritz Inc is a start-up company that has developed a reading tool (pictured below) to solve the problems of time and space consumption in reading. Spritz uses fast-streaming text that moves in one position on your screen, at a chosen words-per-minute (WPM) speed. It is based on the scientific notion of a word’s fixation point, where only 4-5 letters of a word may be seen with 100% acuity. This fixation point is highlighted to accelerate the user’s visual perception, helping them to read faster.
All of this sounds rather technical, but essentially – Spritz helps to make the reading process easier and more comfortable, and is great for the smaller screens on our smartphones and wearable tech. The best way to understand it is by giving it a go for yourself – try the demo on Spritz’s homepage or install the Spritz Bookmarklet into your browser to read this blog post or any other page on the internet using their reading tool. I’ve been using their tool for a couple of months now and personally believe that it is helped my reading a great deal! I started off at around 250 WPM and can now read comfortably at around 600 WPM. I have no doubt that Spritz’s patent-pending technology will shape the way that we read in the future.
Stay tuned for next week’s Let’s Talk Tech feature where we’ll look at some great keyboard innovations that may shape the way we type in the future.