IBM Predicts Computers Will Have 5 Senses In 5 Years
December 17, 2012

IBM Predicts Computers Will Have 5 Senses In 5 Years

[Watch Video: Cognitive Computing: 5 Future Technology Innovations From IBM]

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Each year, IBM releases a set of predictions about where the world of computing will be in just 5 short years. Of course, when it comes to computing, 5 years is really a long time. This years list, called the 5 in 5 list, has been released today and, according to IBM, we´ll be engaging with computers with feelings in just 5 years.

According to IBM, these cognitive computers will be able to feel, hear, see and touch and respond accordingly.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of this shift is our ability to give machines some of the capabilities of the right side of the human brain,” writes IBM´s chief innovation officer Bernard Meyerson in the company´s blog.

“New technologies make it possible for machines to mimic and augment the senses. Today, we see the beginnings of sensing machines in self-parking cars and biometric security—and the future is wide open. This year, we focused the IBM Next 5 in 5, our 2012 forecast of inventions that will change your world in the next five years, on how computers will mimic the senses,” said Meyerson.

According to Robyn Schwartz, IBM´s retail industry expert, we´ll be able to touch through our smartphones in only 5 year´s time.

“Within the next 5 years, the phone will be such a ubiquitous part of our every day experience of understanding our world, that we´ll be able to completely understand the sensation of touch through our phone,” explains Ms. Schwartz in the video clip (follow link at top of page).

Ms. Schwartz believes that customers will be able to not only buy their next item of clothing online through their phone, but will also be able to feel the materials the clothing is made of. By sending the right vibration signals through the phone, mobile shoppers will be able to feel the difference between burlap and linen.

John Smith, senior manager of intelligent information management at IBM suggests that computers will be able to look at and understand images. Computers are currently able to look at images and take in important information about them. The more images these computers take in, the better they´ll one day be at recognizing these images.

Smith claims this kind of functionality could be useful in the medical field, particularly in dermatology. As more images are collected of skin cancers, suggests Smith, a computer will be able to learn certain patterns and commonalities, thereby enabling it to give an early warning to doctors who have yet to identify a patient with cancer.

IBM research scientist Dimitri Kanevsky, on the other hand, believes computers will one day be able to “hear what matters.”

In one example, Kanevsky suggests that a hearing computer will be able to hear a baby crying and understand if it is hungry, fussy, or needs to visit a doctor. Kanevsky also suggests that these hearing computers could one day be used to “listen” for impending catastrophes, such as mud slides or floods.

IBM´s 5 in 5 list also suggests that computers will be able to help us eat smarter by understanding our nutritional needs as well as create “perfect”meals with just the right balance of flavor.

IBM also claims computers will be able to smell in 5 year´s time, allowing them to detect hazardous situations and even determine if the pH level is correct in soil. Other researchers have already made strides in this field, however, as the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has already designed an electronic nose meant to mimic a dog´s snout.