Computers will be able to Touch, Taste, Hear, Smell and See [IBM 5 in 5 2012]


Computers, smartphones and other mobile devices will be able to incorporate the 5 basic human senses of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing into their features, according to IBM 5 in 5 2012.

Feeling the silk material of a sari before shopping online to mobile devices warning users about an impending cold by smelling into their sneezes – advancement in technology will allow companies to empower machines with some of the capabilities of the right side of the human brain, claims IBM.

IBM 5 in 5

In the latest edition of IBM 5 in 5, the tech giant has listed out 5 key innovations in technology that are set to affect day to day lives of people across the globe over the next 5 years. Devices will be able to communicate with humans in different ways and align their functions with 5 basic human senses of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing.

IBM 5 in 5: Sense of Touch

Creating a sense of texture with the use of vibrations is already possible. It is only a matter of time before a lexicon of sorts is developed to match these textures with the real physical experience of feeling something, claims IBM.

IBM believes that smartphones will soon be able to emit vibrations in the air that will allow users to feel. Farmers may be able to feel the texture of an ideal crop from an online guide and compare it to their own. Shoppers may also able to feel the fabric of a piece of cloth they are about to buy online.

IBM 5 in 5: Sense of smell

Dr. Hendrik F Hamann, Research Manager at IBM also believes that devices will be able to capture typical biological markers and align them with specific data to evolve into machines that can ‘smell’. As an example of practical application of such technology, a sensor on a mobile phone may be able to pre-empt users about the warning signs of tuberculosis based on specific biomarkers.

IBM claims to have already demonstrated in lab tests how sensing devices can break apart biological markers and narrow down individual molecules. As technology evolves, more advanced and tiny sensors may be placed in devices like mobile phones or tablets.

IBM 5 in 5: Sense of sight

Images and pictures are set to become more than just jpeg files containing millions of pixels. Computers will be able to analyse the pixels and understand the object or area, believes IBM Research.

This is predicted to be a reality as computers are fed vast amounts of data, basically giving machines the ability to interpret what they see. For example, the data from images of innumerable patient scans over time will allow computers to analyse the picture of someone’s skin and look out for tell tale signs of skin cancer.

IBM 5 in 5: Sense of hearing

Complex algorithms backed by vast data resources will also allow cognitive systems to develop an analytical sense of hearing, claims the report. Smartphones and other gadgets will go beyond simply being able to identify sounds. Devices will be able to understand, interpret and predict situations and circumstance based on analyses of audio input.

Phones armed with such sensing abilities may also be able to mute-out background noise when users have an important conversation. An app telling users the meaning behind a dog’s bark or an infant’s cry may become a possibility by as soon as the next 5 years. IBM’s scientists are already using such technology to make weather predictions in Brazil.

IBM 5 in 5: Sense of taste

How will advancement in technology embed the sense of taste in computers? "In five years, computers will be able to construct never-before-heard-of recipes to delight palates – even those with health or dietary constraints – using foods’ molecular structure" said Dr. Lav Varshney, Research Scientist at IBM.

Instead of arming computers with logic that uses a top-down approach to make conclusions, researchers at IBM are creating learning systems that use bottom-up logic to mimic human perception. The element of creativity is being added to a computer’s analytical prowess by enabling devices to understand how different chemical compounds of food interact with each other.

The computer will compare the results with sets of psychophysical data which will attempt to predict various elements affecting the human perception of taste. In a nutshell, IBM expects computers to create unique recipes that are ‘scientifically favorable’.

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