We all have moments of downtime throughout the day — whether it’s waiting for an elevator, your Wi-Fi to connect, an app to refresh or your GChat buddy to write back. What if you could use those moments of downtime to learn a new language or skill?
Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory want to help you make the most of these “micro-moments.” They developed a series of tools called WaitSuite that test vocabulary words during times you wouldn’t otherwise be doing anything.
The team on Monday released its first tool in the suite: WaitChatter, a Chrome extension for GChat that “delights you with interactive vocabulary exercises while you’re waiting for your conversation partner to respond.” At this point, WaitChatter teaches basic vocabulary in Spanish and French, but the researchers said they hope to support other languages in the future.
“With standalone apps, it can be inconvenient to have to separately open them up to do a learning task,” MIT PhD student Carrie Cai, who leads the project, said in a statement. “WaitSuite is embedded directly into your existing tasks, so that you can easily learn without leaving what you were already doing.”
The team is planning to release their other tools in the coming months, including WiFiLearner, which gives you learning prompts when it detects your computer is seeking a Wi-Fi connection and ElevatorLearner, which automatically detects when you’re near an elevator by sensing Bluetooth iBeacons and sends you vocabulary words.
The researchers said that WaitChatter testers learned about four new words per day, or 57 words in just two weeks. And while WaitSuite is focused on teaching vocabulary words, the researchers said this method can also be used to teach things like math, medical terms or legalese. The researchers plan to present a paper on the system at ACM’s CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems next month in Colorado.
For more on WaitSuite, check out the video below.