Could Focus Reading make it easier for you to read text? (Bionic Reading alternative)

Focus Reading is a new Jamworks feature that can help you to remain focused when reading text. Reading is an essential skill for all university students. Assignments and exams require you to not only read texts but also to understand, analyse and interpret them. From textbooks and research articles to lecture materials and notes, there’s no shortage of reading material. But, what if you struggle to simply focus on reading? 


What is Focus Reading? 

Have you ever used your finger or mouse to guide yourself when reading? Focus Reading, which is similar to Bionic Reading, is a tool for guiding your eyes along the text as you read. Simply put, the first few letters of a word are emphasised using a bold font. This acts as an artificial fixation point to draw your eyes to the next point of focus. Unlike other reading methods, such as speed reading, Focus Reading is an intuitive skill that can be achieved instantly without any prior training. It’s a simple typographical change that facilitates reading and helps you stay focused. 

If you find reading text difficult or overwhelming, Focus Reading could be a game changer. It can be difficult to reach the stage of critical reading, thinking, or analysis if the text is hard to get through. Focus Reading provides a helping hand for a distraction-free reading experience. This reading method could also be particularly helpful for students with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


The Theory Behind Focus Reading 

This simple typographical change works because your brain reads faster than your eyes. Your brain, or more importantly, your memory only needs the first few letters to fill in the gaps. The bold font highlights what your brain needs to complete the word. These artificial fixation points act as a guide that allows you to read faster. Your brain can easily identify the next point of focus before your eyes have moved from the current word. Reading features like Focus Reading and Bionic Reading have utilised this information to support your reading flow.

Currently, there’s no well-known academic research on this particular reading method. However, this theory does align with the research findings about our visual processing during reading. Your eyes do two things when reading, these are known as fixations and saccades. A fixation is where you take in information to identify the current letter, while saccades are eye movements between fixations. Research has shown that our visual attention actually shifts before eye movement occurs. 

This is exactly what this reading method is based on. The fact that our brains are reading faster than our eyes are moving, that’s our visual attention. Your attention is allocated to one word or a portion of a word at a time to help you identify the letters. Although this is a simplified explanation of how visual processing works during reading, it matches the theory behind Focus Reading. You’ll also come across the terms ‘fixations’ and ‘saccades’ when using these reading tools, which we’ll share more about below.


Try it for Yourself

But does it really work? In early 2022, Bionic Reading went viral. Many shared that this reading format was easier to follow and comprehend, especially for those who had ADHD and dyslexia. According to one tweet, it felt like ‘unlocking 100% of your brain’. Others felt this reading format was difficult and didn’t work for them, and articles noted that there’s no evidence of this typographical change improving reading speed. However, reading speed is only one potential benefit of this reading method. Reading speed isn’t always the goal. Especially when you simply find staying focused during reading a challenge in itself.

Naturally, having a better focus while reading can help you to get through the text faster. But more importantly, it helps you to actually progress through the text itself. The amount of information in academic papers and textbooks can be overwhelming and easy to lose track of. Those fixation points can provide you with a guide to keep your eyes and mind on track, like a gentle nudge in the right direction. The good news is – this reading format is so simple, quick to implement, and customisable, that you can just try it for yourself. Does reading this feel easier?


Bionic Reading sample text from blog post

If this sample has sparked your curiosity, read on for some free tools that can help you to use this reading method. We’ll also outline how Jamworks utilises Focus Reading to make note-taking and studying accessibility friendly.


Free Reading Tools

The Focus Reading technique can be used for web pages, documents, e-books, and more. These free tools also offer a range of customisation features. Your artificial fixation point can be changed in a variety of ways. The main two changes are fixation, which is how much of the word is presented in bold, and saccades, which is the visual jump from one fixation to another. For example, some people might prefer to have a fixation on every few words rather than every word. This means there’s an increase in the visual jump (saccade). As this is a font-based change, some of these tools also allow additional features like the intensity of bold text, or brightness. 

Not Bionic Reading 

This is a web-based tool where you can copy and paste text to be converted. You can adjust the fixation, saccade, and opacity, alongside font size, line height, and letter spacing. This is a helpful tool to try out the different customisation options and find what works for you! Especially if you’re still unsure if this reading method is beneficial for your reading needs. 

Torpedo Read 

If you’re set on the Focus Reading method, Torpedo Read can help make this your normal reading format. This tool is an extension for both Firefox and Chrome and a file converter for PDFs and EPUB files. The extension works for loading webpages but will also apply to new content on the page, such as chat messages. In Torpedo Read’s visualiser, you can adjust thickness, contrast and font to your liking. This will be applied across all the web pages you visit!

Jiffy Reader by Ansh 

This is an open-source tool created by Ansh. It requires some manual installation but can be used as an extension across a range of browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and more. This tool also supports both PDF and EPUB file conversion. For customisation, you can adjust the strength of the fixation, and saccade intervals, and choose how you want to emphasise the text using colours or underlining instead of bold text. You can also adjust the opacity of the rest of the text that isn’t emphasised.


Jamworks for Focus Reading of Lecture Notes

Focus Reading is one of the many accessibility-friendly features offered by Jamworks. This assistive note-taking tool provides live captioning and transcription features for lecture and seminar recordings. If you struggle with paying attention in lectures and effective note-taking, Jamworks provides an easy and simple solution for distraction-free note-taking. 

Using 1-button highlighting, you can break recorded lecture content into smaller topics. For each highlight, you can create personal notes, generate an AI-powered summary, and revisit the content with an audio clip. Jamworks also supports exam revision using your lecture material by turning those highlights into flashcard-style quizzes.

Jamworks created the brand-new Focus Reading feature to add to their host of assistive note-taking features that improve accessibility. The power of Focus Reading in Jamworks is that you can now read your own personal notes, lecture transcripts, and AI-powered summaries using Focus Reading. There’s no need to take the extra steps of converting your notes using an additional extension. 

Start Focus Reading your lecture notes today with Jamworks – click here to get started.

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