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Computer giant IBM has made its annual predictions as to how technology innovations are set to transform people’s daily lives in the way they live, work and play.
Every year IBM’s ‘5 in 5’ predictions are based on market and social trends as well as emerging technologies from its Research and Development Labs around the world.
This year’s IBM 5 in 5 explores innovations that will be the underpinnings of the next era of computing, which IBM describes as the era of ‘cognitive systems’.
This new generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense and begin to experience the world as it really is. This year’s predictions focus on one element of the new era, the ability of computers to mimic the human senses—in their own way, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.
These sensing capabilities will help us become more aware, productive and help us think – but not think for us.
Cognitive computing systems will help us see through complexity, keep up with the speed of information, make more informed decisions, improve our health and standard of living, enrich our lives and break down all kinds of barriers—including geographic distance, language, cost and inaccessibility.
IBM Fellow and Vice President of Innovation, Bernie Meyerson commented:
“IBM scientists around the world are collaborating on advances that will help computers make sense of the world around them.
“Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges.”
Here are the next five upcoming technology advances that will change the world according to IBM:
Touch: Imagine using your smartphone to shop for your wedding dress and being able to feel the satin or silk of the gown. Soon this may become a reality. 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: We take 500 billion photos a year, with 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. The global medical diagnostic imaging market is expected to grow to $26.6 billion by 2016. A pixel will be worth a thousand words. Systems will be able to look at and recognise 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: Ever wish you could make sense of the sounds all around you and be able to understand what’s not being said? Computers will soon be able to hear what matters. Sound pressure, vibration and sounds waves of all different frequencies will be recognised 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 flavour 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 maximise our experience of taste and flavour.
Smell: Computers have the potential to develop a sense of smell. Your phone will detect if you're coming down with a cold or illness before you do by detecting and analysing the millions of molecules in your breath. Computers will "smell" for chemicals in urban environments to monitor pollution or analyse the soil condition of crops in agriculture; with simple sensing systems able to measure right down to a single molecule.