What If Computers Could Replicate Texture, See, Hear, Taste And Smell? IBM Thinks This Will Be Reality Within 5 Years

Starting in 2006 IBM started a yearly tradition of doing 5 predictions on where technology will head in the next 5 years called the 5 in 5. These predictions are explained by computer scientists and if you take a look at some of the earlier predictions, a few of them indeed came true.

A large number of them however, are still considered “cutting edge” and are not yet available to the general public or just haven’t progressed as fast as first predicted. Regardless, IBM’s 5 in 5 is still extremely interesting for anyone remotely interested in technology.

This years 5 in 5 has to do with Cognitive computing. Paul Bloom, IBM’s CTO of Telcom Research says that “our computers today are just large calculators.” And to be honest, he does have a point. Computers today are still not “The Jetsons” as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, would say. Within the next 5 years computers will become much smarter, to the point where they will be able to smell, taste and hear. You can take a look at all 5 predictions below.

IBM 5 in 5 2012

The first prediction has to do with Touch. In the future your mobile device will be able to replicate textures by using nothing but vibrations. This means if you were shopping online for clothes you could actually feel what the fabric is like. The vibrations on your device could actually help you distinguish burlap vs. linen vs. silk. This way you rely less on a clever copywriter.

Next up is Sight, “computers will be able to not only look at images, but understand them.” One highly useful application of this is in the medical field. Take dermatology for example, if a computer was able to take images of patient’s skin and had a large database to reference it against, it could start to look for patterns, like if a mark is pre-cancerous.

Sensors will eventually be able to pick up Sound patterns and frequency changes to make accurate predictions. These predictions include giving a warning before a bridge is about to buckle, a tree breaking down internally before it falls and even the deeper meaning behind a baby’s cry.

What if your computer knew what you were craving before you did? Eventually computers will be able to Taste which in turn will enable it to compute “perfect” meals using an algorithmic recipe of favorite flavors and optimal nutrition. Just how will a computer taste? Well, it will determine the chemical structure of food and how it relates to what humans perceive as flavor.

Smell is the last prediction and we have already somewhat seen, or at least heard, about its implementation. The examples given in the video however, are a little bit more advanced and have to do with how doctors will eventually be able to diagnose you by having a computer smell your breath.

The next step in the evolution of the computer is indeed cognitive computing and while it is unlikely that all of these predictions will come true in 5 years, within the next 10 I think we will see all of what you just watched become reality. What do you think of IBM’s predictions? We would love to hear your thoughts.

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  • http://twitter.com/trickedoutdavid David Margolin

    hmm… looks like ibm is really only going for this doctor thing…