IBM says computers will be able to simulate human senses in five years
Agence France-Presse in Washington
Future computing devices will have the ability to see, smell, touch, taste and hear, IBM says in an annual forecast.
The seventh annual "IBM 5 in 5", a list of innovations that have the potential to have an impact in the next five years, said computers and other devices would gain more capabilities to simulate the human senses.
IBM said computers may be able to use algorithms to determine the precise chemical structure of food and why people like certain tastes.
"Not only will it make healthy foods more palatable - it will also surprise us with unusual pairings of foods actually designed to maximise our experience of taste and flavour," the computing giant said.
"In the case of people with special dietary needs such as individuals with diabetes, it would develop flavours and recipes to keep their blood sugar regulated, but satisfy their sweet tooth."
IBM predicted that in the next five years, tiny sensors embedded in computers or cell phones will detect if someone is coming down with a cold or other illness, by analysing odours, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in someone's breath.
These tools will also help doctors diagnose and monitor the onset of ailments such as liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, according to the IBM report.
For touch, IBM says new tactile, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies will allow people to simulate touch.
"Utilising the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience," IBM said.
IBM said computers were also developing improved capacities to detect and analyse sounds.
"Within five years, a distributed system of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies," IBM said. "It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent."
The IBM outlook says another key area for computer innovation will be the ability to analyse visual data, or "see".
"Computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information - the actual content of the image - is a mystery," said IBM.
"In the next five years, systems will not only be able to look at and recognise the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, beginning to make sense out of it."