IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives within Five Years

Breakthroughs will mark the era of cognitive systems when computers will, in their own way, see, smell, touch, taste and hear

Today IBM (NYSE: IBM) unveiled the seventh annual”IBM 5 in 5″ (#ibm5in5) – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

Ø        Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone
Ø        Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousands words
Ø        Hearing: Computers will hear what matters
Ø        Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter
Ø        Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs around the world that can make these transformations possible.

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 scientists around the world are collaborating on advances that will help computers make sense of the world around them,” said Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and VP of Innovation. “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 five predictions that will define the future:

Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone.

Imagine using your smartphone to shop for your wedding dress and being able to feel the satin or silk of the gown, or the lace on the veil, all from the surface of the screen? Or to feel the beading and weave of a blanket made by a local artisan half way around the world? 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.  Utilizing the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience:  short fast patterns, or longer and stronger strings of vibrations. The vibration pattern will differentiate silk from linen or cotton, helping simulate the physical sensation of actually touching the material.

Current uses of haptic and graphic technology in the gaming industry take the end user into a simulated environment.  The opportunity and challenge here is to make the technology so ubiquitous and inter-woven into everyday experiences that it brings greater context to our lives by weaving technology in front and around us.  This technology will become ubiquitous in our everyday lives, turning mobile phones into tools for natural and intuitive interaction with the world around us.