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IBM Technology

IBM Predicts the Next 5 Years of Computing 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the tomorrow's-tech dept.
SternisheFan writes "Shaun McGlaun of Slashgear writes: IBM has offered up its annual list of five innovations that will change our lives within five years. IBM calls the list the 'IBM 5 in 5.' The list covers innovations that IBM believes that the potential change the way people work, live, and interact over the next five years. The five innovations IBM lists this year include touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell. "
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IBM Predicts the Next 5 Years of Computing

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:31PM (#42315897) Journal

    It's probably for the best that they are so lousy at predicting the future... Did you see the one for 2006 where they talked about integrating Lotus groupware with some horrible Second Life clone to produce some sort of dystopian 3d cubiclespace hell?

  • Re:wharrgarbl (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:51PM (#42316119)
    Well, they have to make some sort of prediction for business planning purposes; maybe the reason they share them with the world is because they know they can't really do it! But they want some "wisdom of crowds" from people like us.

    IBM is one company that I cannot begrudge for making predictions. Unlike, say, HP, IBM still invests heavily in basic and applied research (from materials science to Watson) and perhaps more than anybody else, seems to get results, with a fairly steady flow of world-firsts. So they are shaping the future and not just dreaming up sci-fi for page hits.

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:59PM (#42316225)
    Let's delve into the details a bit. The predictions from 2006 are predictions for 2012. Have they come to pass?

    1. Prediction: "We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world" The prediction describes online health records, and telemedicine.
    Reality: There have been some efforts, in some countries, to digitize records. Many have failed, some are moving forward. However, to my knowledge, none of them have gained wide acceptance (nor overcome the huge privacy and legal obstacles). The current level of web-integration of our records today is not much different from 2006. As for telemedicine? There have been a few more flashy proof-of-principle demonstrations, but nothing has become routine.

    2. Prediction: "Real-time speech translation—once a vision only in science fiction—will become the norm"
    Reality: Microsoft recently demonstrated realtime English-to-Chinese translation. [technologyreview.com] However, the very media buzz about that shows that it is far from "the norm". What we have is just tightly-controlled tech demos, not technology integrated into all of our smartphones ("the norm"). It's likely that existing software will get better (text translation has become amazingly good of late)... but it didn't happen within the 5 years they estimated.

    3. Prediction: "There will be a 3-D Internet", by which they seemd to have meant three-dimensional navigation/environments (virtual-reality-like).
    Reality: Same as 2006, really. We had Second Life, and we still do. We had 3D video-games, and we still do. In fact, this was quite a silly prediction to make in 2006, given how much was already known at that time...

    4. Prediction: "Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance"; this is a vague prediction wherein they reference "Green Chemistry [wikipedia.org]" as if they invented it (they didn't).
    Reality: I don't know how to judge this one, since they didn't really make a prediction. There's been more research in the area of green chemistry. Nothing revolutionary has happened in the last 5 years, though.

    5. Prediction: "Our mobile phones will start to read our minds", which they clarify as meaning that "mobile devices and networks to (with consent) learn about their users' whereabouts and preferences"
    Reality: We can be generous and say that this has come to pass, in the form of smartphones and their associated ecosystem of apps. As a particular example, Google Now [wikipedia.org] (available on Android 4.1 and later) provides contextual information to the user without the user having to explicitly arrange it. For example it warns you that you have to leave now to get to a particular appointment (based on knowledge of your location, the appointment location, and current traffic). If you're at a bus stop, it automatically pulls up the schedule. These kinds of tricks are neat, and will no doubt become more sophisticated with time.

    So, my assessment is that their past predictions are right about 20% of the time.
  • by medcalf (68293) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:55PM (#42316711) Homepage
    I think you have to separate device and application. If a single device could contain the necessary sensors for all of those things, without a cost premium over, say, an iPhone or top-of-the-line Android phone from today, then why not? The whole reason that current cell phones are so powerful is not the processor, but the array of sensors they contain. It is those sensors that enable things like overlaying data on the world around you, and measuring (approximately) objects at a distance, and acting as a decibel meter, and acting as a level, and all kinds of other things. Is an iPhone going to be the best level for professional work? No, of course not, but it's good enough if I want to check if my new stove is adjusted correctly. Is it going to be a good enough theodolite for precision surveying? No, of course not, but it's good enough to let me figure out how much wood I need to get to build a fence without walking the whole border of the area being fenced.

    Today, we already have all but two of the sensors that would be required for the applications you posit. (We lack thermometers and chemical analysis sensors.) As far as reducing false alarms to zero, that is of course impossible without introducing a lot of error in the other direction. (Google type 1 and type 2 errors.) And the sensitivity of the sensors is of course subject to the same problem. (Heartbeats are very, very, very low signals and would be lost in the noise from any distance, so getting those would introduce a lot of false positives.) And writing the apps to do all the things you want, even with real-world accuracy, is not going to be trivial. On the other hand, once the sensors are there, someone will undoubtedly try it.

    In other words, your pie-in-the-sky set of examples is really not that far out from what is already possible, modulo the problem of balancing false negatives against false positives.

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