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IBM Imagines Our Five-Year Future: It’s A Touchy, Feely, Smart World

IBM guesses at innovations that will change the world inside the next half a decade, and much of it requires computers that work like your brain.

It’s a smart idea to think of IBM as one of the smartest companies ever, so when it releases its regular report, “Next 5 in 5,” detailing five innovations that it thinks will change the world inside five years, it’s worth paying attention.

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This edition of IBM’s future forecasting report centers on developments of its amazing Watson technology–the cognitive computer that caught the non-geek world’s attention by winning Jeopardy against champion human competitors. Watson’s tech represents a new type of computing that processes data in a way that’s similar to how your brain does. But Watson’s descendants won’t be designed to replicate or replace our fragile thinking machines, IBM suggests. Instead, cognitive computing will advance and help our daily lives in all sorts of ways from detecting our illnesses, perhaps before we even have symptoms, to delivering realistic texture sensations through haptic devices.

Most interesting of all, IBM predicts that brainlike tech, including chips that can rewire themselves to “learn” in a way resembling how the human brain makes connections between neurons, can be shrunk so small that a cognitive computer with human brainlike power could fit into a roughly shoebox-size container. Which means it could even be incorporated into robots.

But the core technologies that IBM says its cognitive computing will improve are all about the five senses. Check them out in the slide show above, and then ponder: Would you be comfortable knowing your computer is technically as smart and agile in thinking as you are?

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton, who’s a real person not an AI, on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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