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IBM reveals five innovations that will change our lives within five years

An IBM contribution | Dec. 18, 2012
In the next five years, computers will begin to mimic and augment the senses, helping us become more aware and more productive.

Each December, IBM unveils the 5 in 5 -- five predictions about technology innovations that will change the way we work, live and play within the next five years. The ideas come from the thousands of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and medical physicians in our Research labs around the world -- IBM has the world's largest industrial research organization.

In the next five years, computers will begin to mimic and augment the senses, helping us become more aware and more productive.  Today, we see the beginnings of sensing machines in things like self-parking cars--and the future is wide open. From the company that built Watson, the Jeopardy!-winning computer, here are five upcoming technology advances that will change your world:

Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone: IBM scientists are bringing the sensation of touch to mobile shopping by developing applications for retail that use tactile and infrared technologies. Shoppers will be able to “feel” the texture and weave of a fabric or product by brushing their finger over the item’s image on a device’s screen. 

Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousands words: Systems will be able to look at and recognize visual data such as online photos, medical diagnostic images and traffic camera video and turn the pixels into meaning, beginning to make sense out of them much like the way a human views and interprets images.

Hearing: Computers will hear what matters: Sound pressure, vibration and sounds waves of all different frequencies will be recognized, and used for predicting when a tree might fall or a mudslide is imminent. Machines will translate “baby talk” so parents understand if a baby’s fussing indicates hunger, tiredness or pain.

Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter: Delicious and healthy can go together using a new kind of computing system that is designed for creativity. A machine that experiences flavor will determine the precise chemical structure of food and why people like it. Not only will it make healthy foods more palatable -- it will also surprise us with unusual pairings of foods that are designed to maximize our experience of taste and flavor.

Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell: Your phone will detect if you’re coming down with a cold or illness before you do by detecting and analyzing the millions of molecules in your breath. Computers will “smell” for chemicals in urban environments to monitor pollution or analyze the soil condition of crops in agriculture. Simple sensing systems will measure right down to a single molecule.


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