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Phones will smell when you're ill, feel through the screen

In five years phones will smell when you're ill, hear what babies are saying and let you stroke someone's skin through your screen.

In just a few years, your phone will have one, two, three, four, five, senses working overtime. That's according to IBM, which reckons phones will soon see what you can't, taste what you like, smell when you're ill, hear what babies are saying and let you stroke someone's skin through your screen.

In its annual round of 5 in 5 predictions -- five things that could happen in the next five years -- IBM highlights the potential of hardware that would share your senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch.

If these predictions seem fanciful, just think how much phones have changed in the last five years. Check out the sense-ible predictions to see how our phones could change in the next half-decade. 

Eye see what you did there

Our sense of sight is more than just seeing things -- we recognise things too. If computers could be taught to recognise things by collecting information from many many different pictures of the same item, they could learn to spot things automatically. If a computer can be taught the difference between a healthy person and a person showing signs of cancer, they could spot symptoms earlier than a human eye could.

Taste the difference

By programming computers with the ability to be creative in combining flavours, they could come up with meals that are both nutritious and tasty, solving problems such as kids refusing to eat healthy foods. Mmm, that's good eatin'!

Ear we go

IBM has patented a way to collect data from the cry of a baby, and is working to compare that to the baby's physiological activity to work out how the nipper feels and what it needs. The end result could be a working baby translator. Devices could be designed to hear and recognise other noises too, such as listening for the tell-tale sounds that suggest a tree is about to fall -- both alerting repair crew and answering an age-old philosophical question.

Smell you later

As you breathe out, your phone could pick up the molecules leaving your piehole and analyse them, like a breathalyser. From these biomarkers, you could get advance warning of impending illness or provide useful data for you doctor.

Touch-a touch-a touch me

Within five years, by touching the screen of your phone you could feel the item you're shopping for. You could feel the satin or the beading on your potential wedding dress, or feel the back of the tablet you're thinking of buying.

The feel of different materials on a phone would be created by building a language of how different materials vibrate, and creating devices that can vibrate in the same way so when you're finger is brushed across the screen you 'feel' that material.

Beyond shopping, farmers could check the health of their crops by touching a virtual healthy planet on their phone for comparison, while doctors could begin diagnosis before they reach a patient's bedside.

Or... okay, it's going to be used for sexting, isn't it?

Which of these predictions would you find most useful? And which stand a chance of actually coming true? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.