There are plenty of tiny moments of downtime while you’re online. There are the seconds you wait for your computer to connect to WiFi, the time you spend waiting for a page to load, and the time that passes as you wait for someone to respond to your chats or emails. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) wants to harness those moments to help you be a little more productive, as CNET reports.
WaitSuite is a group of apps designed to teach people languages during that online downtime. Rather than letting those language-learning app reminders go ignored because you’re too busy to practice your Spanish vocabulary, you can learn while you Gchat.
WaitChatter, a Google Chrome extension, works with Gchat to present you with a new vocabulary word in French or Spanish while you wait for your conversation partners to respond. The new foreign language vocabulary word shows up side-by-side with its English translation just below the box where you type out your messages. You can check “didn’t know” or “already knew” to move on to the next word.
The researchers also created other wait-time language learning tools. As they write in a paper on their apps [PDF], they created language-learning tools to test you on vocabulary while you wait for your WiFi to connect, while you wait for your email to send, while your web page loads when you use the “pull to refresh” function on your phone, and while you wait for an elevator (this one required Bluetooth sensors to be placed next to the elevator, so it wouldn’t really work in the wider world). They found that not only was this “wait-learning” not distracting from the primary task of say, emailing or reading something on the web or chatting with a friend, it reduced the frustrations people felt while having to wait. WaitChatter users learned about four new words a day, according to the study.
WaitChatter is the only app that’s publicly available right now, but its functionality might not last long. It’s based on the older version of Gchat, which will be going away soon. On June 26, 2017, Google Talk will be replaced completely with Hangouts, so you won’t be able to revert back to the old chat interface after that. While the creators are looking into making versions of the plugin for Hangouts or for Slack, those likely won't be available for a while, if they come to fruition at all. Before Google makes the Hangouts switch in June, then, you'd better get in as much vocab learning as you can.