Living things beat computers by a nose -- and ears, fingertips, and other sense organs. Compared with people and animals, our computers, tablets, and smartphones are blind, deaf, and unable to touch, smell, or taste. But that'll change in the next five years, according to end-of-year predictions from IBM.
Computers will gain the capacity to use the five senses over the next half decade, according to IBM's annual 5 in 5 predictions.
Come on, now touch me, babe. Infrared and haptic technologies will enable a smartphone's touchscreen and vibration capabilities to simulate the physical sensation of touching something, according to IBM. This will allow online merchants to give shoppers the sensation of touching merchandise, such as Egyptian cotton sheets. Farmers would be able to touch crops remotely to examine their health, and the same goes for doctors examining patients.
My eyes adored you. Vision recognition systems will get better, with applications in industries such as healthcare, retail, and agriculture. For example, computers could spot a tiny area of diseased tissue in an MRI and apply it to a patient's medical history for faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Computers might detect skin cancer based on visible symptoms. From a business perspective, marketing automation systems would be able to learn about consumer preferences by looking at the images people like and share on Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks.
A taste sweeter than wine. Artificial taste would enable computers to analyze food based on how the chemical compounds interact with each other. Computers would be able to devise perfect meals for each person using algorithms taking into account favorite flavors and optimal nutrition. These meals would help combat obesity and malnutrition.
The beating of our hearts is the only sound. Computer hearing would look for sound patterns and frequency changes to predict weakness in a bridge before it buckles, decode the meaning of a baby's crying, or hear a tree fall in the forest (whether or not there's anyone there -- so much for the old philosophical riddle).
Can't you smell that smell? Artificial smell would detect chemicals and molecules in breath that affect a person's health, troubleshoot hospital hygiene, detect soil conditions, and look for flaws in a city's sanitation or sewage system before the human nose detects a problem.
Here's a quick video overview of the predictions.
For more videos and more details on the predictions, visit IBM: The 5 in 5.
IBM has been doing these 5 in 5 predictions for a few years. For a look at past predictions, visit the archive: IBM: Past 5 in 5s.
Okay, but "they'll use sensors" is handwaving. How do sensors detect taste or smell? I know how they detect light and sound, and even pressure for tactile, but I don't know how they detect taste or smell.
I'm not going near the porn comment! But, regarding taste and smell, it's my (non-engineer) understanding that computers will use sensors; I'd guess they'll be backed by AI/big-data that can super-quickly crunch through everything to discern "onion," "Chanel No. 5," or "wet dog" for smell or "chocolate chip cookie," "arsenic," or "kale" for taste.
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