it’s incredible how reading this feels like finally unlocking 100% of your brain
— juan (@juanbuis) May 18, 2022
It's fair to say many of us spend a lot of time reading online. Whether it's required for work, or you happen to do most of your reading on a screen—news, ebooks, social media, etc.—the constant blue light glare and small fonts can take their toll. Not only can screentime cause eye strain and headaches, but for some, there's a feeling of frustration and the sense that they're just not fully comprehending what they're spending so much time reading.
Enter Bionic Reading, a reading system developed by Swiss typographic designer Renato Casutt. Built on the concept that your brain reads faster than your eyes, it involves bolding the first few letters of each word. These bolded letters create “artificial fixation points,” which allow your eyes to “skip” over words while your brain center automatically fills in the rest and still absorbs the meaning. This relieves some of the eye strain caused by reading on a screen, and it enhances comprehension—you're able to grasp the meaning of texts with less intentional effort. Reading in this mode does feel a bit, well, bionic. “It’s incredible how reading this feels like finally unlocking 100% of your brain,” Juan Buis, a UX writer for the likes of Spotify and Minecraft, tweeted.
Like so many clever discoveries, this one was stumbled upon by accident. While designing a book for an author in a foreign language, Casutt struggled to read its words but realized he could relate those words to his own language by sectioning them off. Readers who have tested his theory agree that it improves their reading speed and comprehension, including those with dyslexia.
After working tirelessly for six years to develop Bionic Reading, Casutt has just recently been overwhelmed with messages regarding the tool. He's continued to test it and fine-tune its capabilities. So far, it can be tailored to accommodate the preferences of each reader. Options include being able to increase or decrease the number of bolded letters, how often they appear, and the opacity of the bolded letters. There are also options to change the font and font size, as well as to adjust the line height, spacing, and column width—basically, everything that impacts the comfort of online reading.
Casutt's goal is for Bionic Reading to be integrated into all existing apps and services. “In a digital world dominated by shallow forms of reading,” the website says, “Bionic Reading aims to encourage a more in-depth reading and understanding of written content.”
You can try out the Bionic Reading Converter for free by uploading text or a link, and a browser extension is in the works. A Bionic Reading API will make the reading mode available in your favorite reading app. Right now, you can experience using the prototypes in the apps Reeder 5, Fiery Feeds, and Lire.
Do you feel like you read a lot on a screen but have trouble comprehending what you're reading? Bionic Reading can help.
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