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article imageIBM's cognitive computers soon processing with human attributes?

By Nancy Houser     Dec 18, 2012 in Technology
Computers can process visual inputs, compute answers and write them down using a robotic arm; performing feats of human intelligence. Now IBM reports that soon computers will be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch - the five human senses.
According to PC Magazine, cognitive computing is right around the corner, a successful attempt to get computers to behave more like humans. "IBM today argued that we're entering an 'era of cognitive computing' that will include 'machines that can help us think'. "
Gigacom reports that "This year those 'closer-to-the-scalp' technologies converge around computers’ growing ability to handle richer, more diverse data and churn out more valuable output — such as the feel of cloth, the smell or taste of food. The general premise is that these sensory and cognitive technologies will convert computers from glorified calculators into true thinking machines."
True thinking machines can help the world become a better place, according to IBM. Previously, computers were passively programmed by human programmers. But due to artificial intelligence, advanced speech recognition, machine learning and newly emerging technologies, computers and smart phones can now enhance and augment the human senses.
Gizmag states that "The 'reverse engineering' approach of attempting to understand the biology of the human brain and then build a computer that models it isn't new; but now, thanks to the promising results of research efforts led by Prof. Chris Eliasmith, the technique could gain even more traction."
Supercomputers were the beginning step of humanizing computers. They were modeled by researchers in close detail of the mammalian brain. Properties were capture with its overall structure and connectivity. This involved the finest detail of each and every neuron - which neurotransmitters are used; how voltages are generated in the cell; and how they communicated. Eight different tasks were hardwired into the computer system, involving various high-level cognitive functions. "Tasks included handwriting recognition, answering questions, addition by counting, and even the kind of completion of symbolic patterns that often appears in intelligence tests."
However, tests were passed on a consistent basis, but it could not learn new tasks. All of its knowledge had to be hardwired beforehand. But today, IBM's researchers are creating applications for the retail and healthcare sectors that use haptic, infrared or pressure-sensitive technologies to simulate touch.
PC Mag reported that computers capable of cognitive thinking is just a beginning. "That includes computers that will be able to handle right-brained activities, like sensing. We see the beginnings of sensing machines in self-parking cars and biometric security–and the future is wide open."
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