IBM researchers are exploring new inventions and trends that will change every aspect of your life—everything from your health to your commute.They just released their annual “Five in Five” year-end predictions, in which they name five crazy-sounding technologies that will be ordinary in five years.
The predictions they made in 2007 for 2012 were spot on—for example, voice-controlled cars and mobile payments. So we looked back at IBM’s past predictions to see what they anticipate coming to fruition between 2013 and 2017.
Tiny sensors that can 'smell' can be built into smartphones and other mobile devices.
Those traces of chemical compounds can be fed to a powerful cloud app, detecting everything from carbon monoxide to the flu virus.
As a result, if you sneeze, the phone can tell you if you are getting sick.
It has already become common for data centres to use the heat produced by the computer servers they house to heat their own buildings, but it's still unusual for this heat to be captured and used elsewhere. Not for long, though.
In 2008, IBM was working on tech that allows retailers to recognise when shoppers are in their stores and do things like send coupons to their phones.
Your phone will use vibrations to simulate how things feel, similar to how a videogamer uses a 'haptic device,' like a wired-up glove, to feel the rumblings of battle.
It will let you distinguish fabrics, textures, and weaves so that you can know if a sweater is soft or scratchy, right through the screen, IBM researchers say.
Passwords and user names are not very good protection.
But your body is. Computers will one day recognised your face, fingerprint, voice to create a unique password, IBM researchers say,
This is fast on its way. Lenovo PCs have face-recognition logins. Earlier this year, Apple bought a company called AuthenTec that makes fingerprint scanning technology.
Market researchers will soon be able to sift through so much info on what you buy that they'll stop sending you offers on stuff you don't want.
In 2012, big data became a big thing. Hopefully, companies will start using it to learn how to stop sending us junk mail.
In 2008 IBM was working on the Spoken Web project and predicted by 2013, there would be many web sites with a voice interface.
We've already gotten close to this, between Apple's Siri and Google's Voice Search. Voice search works on mobile devices or any computer using the Chrome browser with a microphone.
Computers that can see and hear will help cities fight crime. They'll use those sensors, coupled with big-data analytics, to discover crime hotspots as they occur.
The analytics part is already here. IBM worked on a pilot with Memphis police that analysed crime patterns based on incident reports to find the criminal 'hot spots.'
Eventually, using sensors and smart traffic lights, roads will direct us away from traffic jams.
People may even be able to use apps that coordinate with the traffic lights to get personalised, reliable routes.
This is already starting to come true, thanks to ubiquitous GPS in smartphones and crowdsourced data from apps like Waze.
A human can look at a picture and video and instantly perceive what the object is, the setting it's in, and what it may be doing, ' IBM researchers say.
Right now, a computer only registers a bunch of different-coloured pixels. Computers have to be taught to recognise patterns. When they've learned enough patterns, they will begin to perceive and 'see'.
IBM worked with Honda's American subsidiary and Pacific Gas & Electric on a pilot project that let smart electric grids talk to electric vehicles.
It let EV owners create a custom schedule for the best times to charge their cars, when electricity is plentiful and cheap.
This is a little like hunting down gas stations with the cheapest prices--only for electricity.
Doctors will use tech that can read your DNA or ultratiny nanoscale computers to diagnose you. This sounds a little like the 'tricorder' scanner on Star Trek--our own personal diagnostic machine.
While that's pretty sophisticated, something like the tricorder is already on the market today--the Scanadu Scout. It's like your own personal medical lab.
IBM is working on something called the lithium-air battery. It plans to have a lab prototype of an air-breathing rechargeable battery for electric vehicles by 2014.
That's right: the battery will power itself up from thin air.
In 2010 hologram apps were just starting to appear in app stores. IBM researchers predicted that videoconferencing tools like Facetime or Skype will eventually become more like a 3D hologram than a video conferencing chat.
Computers with taste buds are not quite the food 'replicator' from Star Trek. They're more like personal chefs creating recipes customised to a person's tastes and nutritional needs, IBM researchers say.
But the replicator isn't far away. Venture capitalists are already funding startups working on similar inventions.
Buildings will be loaded up with sensors and that can heat, cool, turn lights on and off on their own, as humans move about the building.
This is almost here. Earlier this year, GreenWave Reality released a smart light bulb that can respond to your iPhone.
IBM Research built a new kind of solar cell that can be added to a lot of different materials.
Products that use this kind of tech have started to arrive. You can already buy roof tiles with solar panels built in.
Obviously, computers and smartphones can already process sounds.
Soon, those sensors will be coupled with massive cloud-computing services that can help them figure out what these sounds mean.
Then our devices will do everything from giving you superhuman hearing to figuring out what a baby's cry means.
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