IBM Targets Five Innovations to Change the World in Five Years

IBM released its "5 in 5," a list of five innovations the company expects to change the way people live over the next five years.

IBM has announced its annual look at a handful of innovations that will affect the lives of human beings over the next five years, the so-called "5 in 5," which includes some novel ideas that are just about within reach for mainstream use.

This year marks the seventh annual "IBM 5 in 5," which IBM says is a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM's R&D labs around the world that can make these transformations possible, company officials said.

This year's IBM 5 in 5 explores innovations that will be the underpinnings of the next era of computing, which IBM describes as the era of cognitive systems. This new generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense and begin to experience the world as it really is. This year's predictions focus on one element of the new era, the ability of computers to mimic the human senses—in their own way, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

Here is a look at what is on the list:

These sensing capabilities will help humans become more aware, productive and help people to think—but not think for them. Cognitive computing systems will help people see through complexity, keep up with the speed of information, make more informed decisions, improve their health and standard of living, enrich their lives and break down all kinds of barriers—including geographic distance, language, cost and inaccessibility.

"IBM scientists around the world are collaborating on advances that will help computers make sense of the world around them," said Bernie Meyerson, IBM fellow and vice president of innovation, in a statement. "Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges."

Prediction One: Touch: You Will Be Able To Touch Through Your Phone

In five years, industries such as retail will be transformed by the ability to "touch" a product through your mobile device, IBM said. IBM scientists are developing applications for the retail, health care and other sectors using haptic, infrared and pressure-sensitive technologies to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric—as a shopper brushes her finger over the image of the item on a device screen. Using the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represent the touch experience: short, fast patterns, or longer and stronger strings of vibrations. The vibration pattern will differentiate silk from linen or cotton, helping simulate the physical sensation of actually touching the material.