Smelling the future of computers

TORIE BOSCH
Last updated 11:46 18/12/2012

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Each December since 2006, IBM has released its "5 in 5" - five predictions for the next five years.

This year's batch is focused on re-creating our senses for computers: "Processing sights and sounds requires eyes, ears and, most important, a brain - right? But what if your hardware shared your senses?" asks the introduction.

IBM's soothsayers foretell:

1. Amped-up touch screens that actually allow you to feel the object depicted

2. Enhanced computer vision to help doctors diagnose previously undetectable diseases. Less altruistically, this technology could also help businesses detect the images you share on social networks, so they can better tailor ads.

3. Smart "hearing" that can analyse the subtle differences in sounds that can often be undetectable to our own ears - from a baby's cry to a tree groaning under the weight of high winds."

4. "Digital taste buds" that will allow high-tech chefs to create new, delicious meals even for those with dietary restrictions.

5. Smart computer "noses" that can sniff breath samples to diagnose the flu, diabetes, TB, and more.

But will all of these predictions really come to fruition by 2018? Let's take a look at IBM's 2006 and 2007 "5 in 5" lists.

In 2006, IBM anticipated remote health care access from anywhere in the world, mind-reading cellphones, "real-time speech translation," a 3D Internet, and nanotechnology for environmental purposes.

In 2007, "5 in 5" foretold money-saving, accessible green technologies; technology to detect whether your food is what it says on the box; cell phones as wallets, banks, shopping companions and more; completely new ways of driving; and doctors using "super senses" to diagnose patients' ailments.

-Slate

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