IBM Predicts Computers Will Soon Have the Five Human Senses

Published On January 4, 2013 | Tech Business

If you think that smartphones, tablets and other recent developments in computers have been impressive, just wait until you see what IBM has in store for you. According to Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation, computers will be able to perceive things much the way senses do. In fact, a recent “5 in 5 list” that details upcoming innovations in computing describes the anticipated changes might just be your worst fear if you’re anxiously awaiting the singularity or have nightmares about Terminators.

The list describes how computers will be able to see, hear, touch, taste and smell in ways that will ultimately benefit consumers. It could make it easier to order from a menu, purchase a new quilt or help users interact with people across the globe who speak a different language. While computers can analyze characteristics of meat to help determine which steak tastes the best, a computer with cognitive abilities could actually know whether that steak tastes good. The real-world applications are limitless as computers become able to do what only people could do in the past.

Up until now, computers and phones, which have become increasingly more computer-like, have been good about providing us with information. However, that information is typically submitted by humans. Plus, computers don’t understand information in the same way that humans do. To overcome this difference, it’s the human programmers that are going to have to change the way they think about human senses, but IBM thinks it can be done.

Not only will computers develop a sort of awareness about their surroundings, but the computers of tomorrow will be able to understand what things mean on a larger scale. While you can look at a piece of clothing, the feel of the fabric, the sound that it makes and the color are individual aspects that mean the difference between a threadbare t-shirt and a decadent ball gown. Getting computers to understand this means a move away from traditional computing, which generally required that computers analyze individual elements of a scene.

One of the roadblocks to this computational transition is allowing computers to make educated guesses and try again when they’re wrong. Of course, humans can do this more easily, but computers typically determine an answer using a formula. Thus, a computer will come to the same answer without new information. However, a computer that is capable of cognitive thinking will be able to analyze the same information in different ways, which can result in a new answer.

Ultimately, the move to sensing computers requires a lot of help from humans. Not only do we have more experience with the five senses, but the new age of computing isn’t something where you can simply hit a switch. As humans, we’ll have to provide the information in a way that we would be able to absorb information like we do. The folks at IBM envision a process that focuses far more on training, which is interactive, than programming the computers.

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