The role technology plays in our lives is always changing and the annual 5 in 5 report from IBM tries to pinpoint exactly where these changes will be over the next five years.

This year, IBM’s predictions are centered around what they refer to a “Cognitive Systems”, a new era of computing where machines will be more connected to human senses thus enabling technology to improve everyday life by acting as a sense enhancement tool. Most of this technology is already used in some type of capacity, for example the sense of “smell” is already used in agriculture sectors to determine the condition of soil.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this shift is our ability to give machines some of the capabilities of the right side of the human brain," said Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM. "New technologies make it possible for machines to mimic and augment the senses."

Therefore, by 2016, IBM says that in addition to a sense of smell, computers will also have sight, hearing and taste and touch capabilities.


Smartphones, such as the Android and iPhone may have ‘touch’ technology since users don’t use a traditional keyboard to browse and type messages, but IBM sees this improving over the next few years.

By 2016 computers will be able to stimulate touch through infrared and pressure sensitive technology. For example, when a shopper wants to feel the fabric of a particular item they might be able to brush their finger over the photo where a particular vibration pattern will simulate what the fabric should feel like.


According to IBM over 500 billion photos are taken a year, but computers don't fully understand the content that is being uploaded. Within the next few years, IBM predicts that computers will be able to distinguish different aspects of a photo, such as its color and texture.

Despite its appeal for photographers and everyday person, IBM says this tool will be useful in the medical field as computers will be able to quickly pick out irregularities in MRI’s, CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds that the human eye may miss.

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Over the next five years, computers will have the ability to sort through sounds that human hearing may have trouble with by using a collection of sensors. With these sensors, IBM says that computers will collect raw sounds and take into account factors that the human brain usually can’t separate from the sounds, such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves. This data and any conclusions that are found are then reported. For example, this technology might be able to help parents understand their baby’s wants and needs by not only hearing the sound a child makes, but by taking in other factors, such as a pulse and heart rate.


While this new development is labeled taste, users will not be able to taste food through their devices. Instead, this prediction is based on flavor and the impact in can make in the food industry. Taste will be able to separate ingredients of a particular dish of food to a molecular level, so that chefs can determine new flavor combinations.

This technology will also enable users to use algorithms to see how food chemicals interact with each other so that they can increase the appeal of certain dishes.


With a sense of smell, IBM predicts that technology will be able to improve a person's overall health by analyzi odors, bio markers and breath molecules and determine if a person is sick -- something that the human sense of smell can’t do. For example, the technology might be able to determine everything from a common cold to the beginnings of a kidney problems.