IBM Research’s “5 in 5” list for 2012 Features Cognitive Computing

5 in 5 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.

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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 information…