October 31, 2014 12:45 UTC

Science & Technology

IBM Says Computers Will See, Taste, Smell, Touch and Hear Things Better in the Future

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IBM 5-in-5
IBM 5-in-5

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report in Special English.
 
Every year, IBM Corporation chooses five new technologies it believes will change the world within the next five years. The IBM list is called “Five in Five.” The company says it considers its own research and the new directions of society and business when identifying the technologies.
 
This year, the list describes some future devices that will extend our five senses. Imagine looking for clothes online and touching your computer or smartphone to feel the cloth. IBM Vice President Bernie Meyerson predicts that technology could be available in the next five years.
 
“You’re talking about almost reinventing the way computers operate and how you interact with them as humans.”
 
Touch is just one of the senses that computers will help to extend. IBM says smart machines will soon be able to listen to the environment and give us information about the sounds they hear. For example, Bernie Meyerson says an advanced speech recognition system will tell new parents why their baby is crying.
 
“From the sound the baby is creating, that particular frequency in the voice of the child, you know the difference between a child for instance who is sick as opposed to a child who is just lonely. That kind of understanding would be great for parents. This kind of thing is not possible today, but with a sophisticated enough system, it actually is possible.”
                                                                               
Smart machines will also help identify medical conditions. If you sneeze on your computer or cell phone, the machine will study thousands of molecules in your breath. Then it can tell you whether you need to see a doctor.
 
“It can give you an alarm and say; ‘Hey, you may not feel sick yet, but you have an infection, which you must go see your doctor immediately.’”
 
In the near future, built-in cameras in our personal computers will be able to examine and name colors and recognize images. Mr. Meyerson says IBM scientists are also developing a computer system that can examine and combine food molecules to create the most popular flavors and smells.
 
“It’ll start to be able to recommend to you foods you’ll love the taste of, but it can also keep track of the caloric limits, whether you have limits on fat or cholesterol that you can eat. So it strikes this almost ideal balance between the best possible taste and the best possible nutritional outcome.”
 
Mark Maloof is a computer science professor at Georgetown University. He says he hopes the progress that IBM is predicting will lead more students to create future inventions.
 
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what young people do with the increased availability of mobile platforms and networking and computing power.”
 
Professor Maloof says advances in computer technology will make what now seems like science fiction a part of our everyday lives.
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