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IBM: Computers will have all human senses

Posted: 18 Dec 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:innovations  sensory  touch  sight  hearing 

IBM has unveiled its seventh annual 'IBM 5 in 5'—a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

This year IBM presents the '5 in 5' in five sensory categories – touch (will be able to touch through your phone); sight (a pixel will be worth a thousand words); hearing (computers will hear what matters); taste (digital taste buds will help you eat smarter); and smell (computers will have a sense of smell).

This year IBM's 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," IBM said in its statement.


In five years, industries such as retail will be transformed by the ability to "touch" a product through your mobile device. IBM scientists are developing applications for the retail, healthcare and other sectors using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric—as a shopper brushes her finger over the image of the item on a device screen. This technology will become ubiquitous in our everyday lives, turning mobile phones into tools for natural and intuitive interaction with the world around us.


We take 500 billion photos a year; 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute; the global medical diagnostic imaging market is expected to grow to Rs.1.41 lakh crore ($26.6 billion) by 2016.

Computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information—the actual content of the image—is a mystery. In the future, "brain-like" capabilities will let computers analyse features such as colour, texture patterns or edge information and extract insights from visual media. This will have a profound impact for industries such as healthcare, retail and agriculture.


Within five years, a distributed system of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies. It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent.

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