Senses like touch and smell coming to computers - The IBM 5 in 5 predictions

Photo Credit: The IBM 5 in 5 - Innovations that will change our lives in the next five years

In the next five years, our mobile and computing devices will “learn” how to mimic the five human senses – touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. And, they’ll use these senses to do some pretty incredible things to advance areas like healthcare and the environment, according to the annual IBM 5 in 5 predictions.

Why would we want a computing device that can smell? Well, our nose can detect up to 1,000 different chemicals but we aren’t always aware of them and, if they’re tiny trace amounts, we don’t even notice them.

Once a computer can process smell like our nose does – with a lot of help from our brain – it will match the smallest trace of every smell to all the data variations for what it could mean. Computing sensors can alert us to fires before there’s a noticeable whiff of smoke or help doctors diagnose disease from the smell of a single molecule.

Who wouldn’t want a “smelling” smartphone app that can monitor our breath and tell us we’re getting a cold or the flu before we even feel the least bit sick?

Every year, the IBM 5 in 5 predicts five important inventions that will change the world in the next five years and the most recent focuses on human senses being developed for computers. These advances are part of the hot new field of “cognitive computing” where machines will actually “learn” from data, the environment and people rather than only perform tasks that they are programmed to do. They’ll be way smarter and intuitive than any of the computers we use today.

The real-world applications for computers using human-like senses will be transformed into reality by a wide range of professionals with career skills in computer science and data analysis as well as biological and social science skills such as cognitive science and linguistics.

If you’re interested in being on the real cutting edge of these types of advances in IT that are changing the world, IBM Research produces more breakthroughs than any company in the industry. Check out the range of jobs at IBM Research and consider pursuing a career where you will work with some of the most innovative and creative thinkers in the world.

Also check out The IBM 5 in 5 videos below where researchers explain the benefits of computers mimicking the five human senses. It’s really fascinating stuff.

Touch : You will be able to touch through your phone


Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousand words


Hearing: Computers will hear what matters


Taste: Digital taste buds will help you eat smarter


Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell

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