App Helps You Get Smarter During Your Wasted Time

MIT software teaches vocabulary during each day's idle moments
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2017 10:03 AM CDT
App Helps You Get Smarter in Bored Microseconds
Learning between floors.   (Getty Images/BakiBG)

How much "wait-learning" have you done lately? That's the term MIT scientists have for picking up knowledge while lingering in an elevator, waiting for a reply to your text, or doing other things that would normally have you simply staring off into space—and now they've got an app package to help you maximize those "micro-moments," Mashable reports. First introduced in a paper last month published in the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction journal, the WaitSuite language software developed in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory detects when you're idling during five distinct tasks—the elevator and text message scenarios, as well as while uploading content to your phone, searching for a WiFi connection, and sending or receiving emails—and then shows you new vocabulary words in a language you're trying to learn.

Because the technology sends the words directly onto the screen you're currently viewing, rather than being a discrete feature to open separately, you're able to learn "without leaving what you were already doing," project lead Carrie Cai says in a release. The apps can tell when users have wait time via sensors that show when their devices are looking for a WiFi signal or have detected the Bluetooth signals used near elevators, for example. With the package's "WaitChatter" instant messaging app, users picked up an average of four new words a day, or nearly 60 words over a two-week period. Cai, who notes users stay focused on their original tasks because they're not leaving their screens, says the apps can also be used to learn math or technical jargon. The apps help "make use of all the small bits of wasted time" each day, an independent researcher says. (Can they keep your brain young?)

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