Every year about this time, IBM Research has been publishing an annual list called “Next 5 in 5” which provides predictions about five emerging technologies that IBM feels will impact our lives in five years.
Today IBM released it’s list for this year and it features an enabling and emerging technology called cognitive computing.
This year’s “Next 5 in 5” cover how computers will enhance the human senses of Sight, Touch, Hearing, Smell and Taste. A brief summary of the five predictions are below, along with links to more detail.
Sight:A pixel will be worth a thousand words. There is a lot of work going on in that area of visualization and imaging analytics technology. IBM says that computers will be able to analyze and act upon large volumes of visual streams of information to help us make better decisions. Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Sight
Touch:You will be able to touch through your phone. Imagine being able to feel the texture in fabric over a mobile screen. IBM Research says that haptic, infrared, and vibration technologies will enable a touchscreen to simulate the physical sensation of touching something. Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Touch
Hearing:Computers will hear what matters. IBM says that embedded sensors will pick up sound patterns and frequency changes and then advanced algorithms embedded in apps will be able to understand and predict events before they occur….allowing for better decisions and communications in real-time. Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Hearing
Smell:Computers will have a sense of smell. In the future, sensors in a smartphone will be able to detect and distinguish different odors. Mobile apps will be able to analyze these odors (chemicals, biomarkers, molecules) and provide insights and recommendations back to the smartphone user. Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Smell
Taste:Digital taste buds will help you eat smarter. IBM Research says that in the future computers will be able to develop new recipes and meals by using a the molecular structure of foods to optimize flavors and nutrition. Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Taste
In my mind…the list represents an interesting set of predictions foreshadowing how in the future 1) computers will be able to give people back senses they may have lost (or never had) and 2) robots will have the ability to simulate human senses. However, there are many other potential applications of the technologies that we can imagine that will benefit corporations, governments, and consumers. For example, firemen responding to a fire in a manufacturing plant will have mobile devices that help them understand if there are any toxic gases. Police departments will be able to listen for patterns in gang neighborhoods to anticipate when and where skirmishes might happen. Automobiles will have embedded capability on board to detect problems with the engine based on sound patterns. Consumers shopping online will be able to ‘touch’ the fabric of of a sweater before buying.
For more on the “5 in 5”. Check out the main article on the IBM Research site at “5 senses. 5 Innovations” (be sure to explore the storymaps on the right nav bar). You can follow the buzz over on Twitter at #ibm5in5
This report has staying power as it has been released every year since 2002. Each year, the report identifies six emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on higher education in the next one to five years. The format of the report stays consistent every year, but the process to arrive at the six emerging technologies keeps improving.
The report presents an overview of each of the six technologies accompanied by examples and suggested readings for each technology. Below I provide my summary of the six emerging summaries. I’ve also embedded a video (3:30) that provides you with an overview from the NMC team.
The areas of emerging technology cited for 2011 are:
Timeframe: The Next 12 months…
Electronic books: The Horizon Report mentions that e-books have taken hold strongly in the consumer sector and the time for mass adoption across campuses is now. This trend has been strongly enabled by the explosion of tablet computing, which can augment text with interactive experiences, support classroom note-taking and research activities, and allow readers to interact socially. This trend will totally change our perception of what it means to read.
Mobiles (i.e., mobile devices). Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more. 2011 will bring new interfaces and new apps that leverage location-awareness. The mobile device of is a versatile tool that can be easily adapted to a host of tasks for learning, productivity, and social networking.
Timeframe: Next 1-3 years….
Augmented reality, enables content providers the ability to provide additional information to what ever users are viewing on a screen device. This information is ‘layered’ over the whatever the user is viewing at the time (e.g. whether in the real world, or on a screen). While most applications have been in the consumer sector (tourism is one application example)), we can expect new applications to become available over the nest 1-3 years that will enhance learning. Augmented reality brings a significant potential to supplement information delivered via computers, mobile devices, video, and even the printed book.
Game-based learning continues to grow as an application area that can enhance learning for students of all ages. We should expect to see a whole new suite of emerging game and simulation-based applications that are developed expressly to enhance the learning process. The report says that perhaps the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration, problem-solving, and procedural thinking.
Timeframe: 4-5 years…
Gesture-based computing technologies continue to evolve. Gone is the day of interacting with the computer via just a keyboard or a mouse. Gestures allow the motions of the body to control computing devices. The next generation of students entering higher education will have grown accustomed to interacting with computers and gaming systems via touching, tapping, swiping, jumping, and moving. The Horizon Report specifically mentions new interface technologies such as Kinect, SixthSense, and Tamper, which make interactions with computational devices far more intuitive and embodied.
Learning analytics employs a combination of data-gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice. The goal is not just to understand the past, but to help predict the future. This technology trend area will help administrators and teachers revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time. Learning analytics will allow educational institutions to tailor education to individual students more effectively.