A company has developed a new reading technology called Live Ink (paper here). The idea is to improve the way text is displayed to improve reading comprehension. The way the brain perceives a page of text is as small region at a time. Words from several lines get picked up at the same time. This confuses the parts of the brain that comprehend words and sentences. Live Ink proposed to spread text out to avoid this mental confusion to improve reading comprehension.
There’s a kernal of a good idea there–electronic text allows reformatting to increase comprehension. But their solution sucks. It takes up too much space and it only partially helps with the problem of line confusion. The syntactic breakup may be helpful. Here’s an image of it:
Computer formatting is a good idea. Here is my idea of how to do it. Fuzz out the lines before and after the current line. This could be done one of two ways. If eye movement tracking is available, follow the eye and only make the line being looked at visible with the others fuzzed out. Without eye tracking make this a timed system (like traditional light bar reading trainers). Start it on a section of text and make one line at a time is visible moving through the text. Controls would be needed to pause and go back a few lines, and flip it off.
By fuzz out the rest of the page I mean alter it so the brain doesn’t think it is text and try to decode it. Whether making it out of focus is enough or if another kind of noise needs to be added would need to be determined by trials. It would be important to leave enough information that the presence of text blocks and formatting is visible. These provide visual landmarks needed for good reading.