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article imageComputers will see, hear, taste, smell and touch by 2018: IBM

By Andrew Moran     Dec 17, 2012 in Technology
Armonk - IBM released its annual "5 in 5" report Monday in which it highlights the next era of computing: cognitive computers. The new generation of computers will have all five senses and will soon be able to adapt, sense and experience reality.
Are you interested in purchasing a new set of sheets for your bed on the Internet? Well, if you want to feel what kind of fabric it is be sure to touch the screen on your computer, tablet or smartphone. This is what the next five years hold for computers across the globe.
By the year 2018, computers will have cognitive technology and will be ophthalmoceptive, audioceptive, gustaoceptive, olfacceptive and tactioceptive. In other words, computers will have the power to see, hear, taste, smell and touch, according to IBM's seventh annual "5 in 5."
The new report from IBM stated that cognitive computing systems will assist in our day-to-day lives by helping in decisionmaking, improving our overall health, increasing our standard of living, providing us with information at a rapid pace and smashing all kinds of barriers, such as cost, language, distance in geography and inaccessibility.
“IBM scientists around the world are collaborating on advances that will help computers make sense of the world around them,” said Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and VP of Innovation, in a press release. “Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges.”
IBM broke down the key elements of cognitive computing:
Touch
Scientists working for IBM are developing applications for both the retail and health care sectors by using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to simulate touch – a shopper could feel the cotton or linen by just brushing his or her finger against the computer screen.
By using the vibrations of a phone, each object will maintain a different set of vibration patterns in order to correspond to the touch experience, like shorter, longer or stronger strings of vibrations. This technology is similar to the simulated environment in video game consoles.
Sight
A picture is worth of a thousand words? Indeed, computers will soon be able to identify each pixel into a definition and meaning and create viewpoints or interpretations of a photograph. By using brain-like functions, a computer will analyze color, extract insights and texture patterns from visual media.
It is believed this will revolutionize agriculture, health care and retail industries.
Hearing
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, utilizing a distribution of smart sensors, a computer will have the power to sense elements of sound pressure, vibrations and waves at different frequencies, which can lead to the prediction of trees falling in a forest or if a landslide is looming.
“For example, ‘baby talk’ will be understood as a language, telling parents or doctors what infants are trying to communicate,” the report stated. “Sounds can be a trigger for interpreting a baby’s behavior or needs. By being taught what baby sounds mean – whether fussing indicates a baby is hungry, hot, tired or in pain – a sophisticated speech recognition system would correlate sounds and babbles with other sensory or physiological information such as heart rate, pulse and temperature.”
Taste
Chefs could soon have a computer aide in the next five years as computing systems will be able to experience taste and different flavors. After taking a taste, it will analyze the ingredients: breaking down to their molecular levels, identifying the food compounds and even noticing the psychology of flavors and what smells humans favor.
It is hypothesized that this could make healthy food taste better. For instance, we would crave a vegetable casserole as opposed to potato chips, but perhaps that vegetable casserole could taste just like potato chips.
Smell
Think you’re coming down with the flu? After the computer takes a quick whiff, it will conclude if you’re getting a cold or even some other type of illness just by its tiny sensors that are installed in your computer or mobile phone.
This other aspect of cognitive computing will also revolutionize the health care industry because by analyzing odors, molecules and biomarkers, it will assist doctors in diagnosing ailments, illnesses or diseases.
“Due to advances in sensor and communication technologies in combination with deep learning systems, sensors can measure data in places never thought possible,” the report said. “For example, computer systems can be used in agriculture to “smell” or analyze the soil condition of crops. In urban environments, this technology will be used to monitor issues with refuge, sanitation and pollution – helping city agencies spot potential problems before they get out of hand.”
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