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IBM's future vision for our five senses (images)

From smelling sickness to actually touching through a touch screen, IBM predicts we'll have all kinds of cognitive help from our devices in five years.

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Eric Mack
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IBM prediction: Digitizing the senses

Each year, IBM makes five big predictions about how we'll use new technologies five years from now. This year, Big Blue's research team focused on what it calls cognitive computing, or how technology will be applied to our five senses. The introductory video below gives an overview:

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IBM prediction: Feeling via touch screen

IBM retail expert Robin Schwartz says being able to see and hear the world through our phones is just the beginning. Look out magic fingers! She predicts that in five years, our mobile devices will allow us to feel the texture of different fabrics and materials through finely tuned haptic feedback and similar innovations:

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IBM prediction: Eyes that see more clearly

According to John Smith, senior manager of Intelligent Information Management at IBM, computers will soon learn to see what we see, as well as what we don't see. By sorting through all sorts of visual data, he sees a future in which computers can recognize better images or understand when something might be wrong. Forget hawk eyes; in five years it could all be about the digital retina.

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IBM prediction: Listening, not just hearing

IBM research scientist Dimitri Kanevski lost his sense of hearing as a young child. Now, he works on ways that digital systems can extract meaning from sound that even humans can't understand, like the needs behind a baby's cries, or rumblings that could warn of an approaching natural disaster. Lend an ear to this video for the details:

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IBM prediction: Have your (healthy) cake

Lav Varshney from IBM says that eating is about to get a whole lot more awesome, and healthy. Imagine a Web app that knows your dietary needs and your sweet tooth and comes up with a recipe to satisfy both. That's like sweetness, squared.

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IBM prediction: Smell the sickness

Hendrik Hamann at IBM thinks we might smell sick. Literally. He envisions a future where computers can smell things we haven't yet learned to identify with our own noses, like disease.

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