Computers to “translate” baby talk and “touch” fabrics across the world

IBM believes computing devices will be able to recreate the five human senses by 2017, transforming healthcare, shopping and cooking.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and social trends as well as emerging technologies from around the world.

Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and Vice President of Innovation, said: “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.”

The research is likely to cause concern among some technology analysts, who are already worried by the thought of artificial intelligence replicating human traits. HumanIPO reported last month that a group of academics at Cambridge University are studying the possibility of technology destroying human civilisation.

Regarding touch, it is predicted consumers will be able to touch through their phone.
IBM gives the example of being able to feel the fabric of a wedding dress while browsing online by brushing their finger along the screen.

With sight, IBM say in the next five years “systems will not only be able to look at and recognize the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, beginning to make sense out of it similar to the way a human views and interprets a photograph”.

This would have the potential to revolutionise healthcare, by implementing it into mass volumes of medical information such as MRIs, CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds.

IBM predict computers could use advanced sensors to hear, or detect, sound pressure, vibrations and waves at different frequencies.

This could allow systems to predict when trees will fall or when a landslide is imminent. The research also claims “baby talk” will be understood as a language so parents will know what their child wants.

Researchers at IBM said they are developing software which tastes and “actually experiences flavour”.

It is hoped the system will break down ingredients to a molecular level and blend the chemistry of food compounds with the “psychology behind what flavours and smells humans prefer”. It will then compare them with millions of recipes and create new flavour combinations.

Finally, tiny sensors embedded in smartphones and computers will be able to smell, or detect, whether someone is coming down with a cold or other illness. They will analyse odours, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in a person’s breath.

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