IBM’s predictions on upcoming computer innovations

December 19, 2012  |  Russ Martin  |  Comments

Computers are about to become a lot more human if IBM’s annual “5 in 5″ predictions are to be believed. The technology company’s researchers have predicted that within five years computers will smell, hear and offer a touch experience that mimics real-world textures.

The innovations open up new opportunities for marketers to create interactive brand experiences and tap into tech to solve business problems. Marketing asked three tech experts from the ad industry to weigh in on the predictions and what they mean for marketers:

Touch: Touch screens will provide a more realistic experience that allows users to feel the texture of products.

Neil Sweeney, president and CEO of Juice Mobile, said he thinks phone manufacturers will jump on this technology as soon as it’s available. In the competitive smartphone market, companies are looking for a way to differentiate their phones. The first phone company to tap into this technology will be able to use it as a major selling point.

If adopted, Sweeney said brick-and-mortar stores will want to use it to show online shoppers the quality of their products. “There is a romantic notion that in retail you can feel what the cashmere is like,” he said. “That’s part of the challenge with buying products online. They look good in the image, but the image is typically flat. If you’re able to add cognitive pieces to the purchase cycle, the ability to drive more purchases is going to be massive.”

Sight: Computers will analyze the colour and texture of images in the same way the human brain does, then extract information from them.

Emir Hassanbegovic, an engineer at Xtreme Labs, pointed out that Google has long been using early iterations of this technology in its image search. If a more advanced form is implemented within the mobile environment, Hassanbegovic said it will have big effects on marketing.

“Once that power is brought to the fingertips of your mobile device, the possibilities are endless,” he said. “Take a picture of a product and see where you can buy it, how much it costs and how many quantities are left.”

Sound: Sensors will be able to detect pressure, vibrations, waves and different frequencies.

Sweeney said he thinks this technology is closest to mass market adoption of all of IBM’s predictions. In the short term, he said car manufacturers are likely to effectively use the tech, pointing out that self-parking systems already use sound sensors.

As both Sweeney and Reshift vice-president of technology Mahmoud Ghali pointed out, the biggest implication for this technology is for natural disaster detection. By using advanced sound sensors, governments may soon be able to detect earthquakes at early stages through vibrations and order life-saving evacuations.

“If you think about cars, on a simple level, self-parking is very much about sound pressure vibrations and waves,” he said. “If you get too close to a car, you get beeping which tells you to stop driving.”

Taste: Computers systems will soon be able to experience flavour and use algorithms to determine the chemical structure of foods.

Ghali said this type of technology is feasible in the near future. By using databases of customer preferences, he said food companies could create personalized products geared to what each consumer likes. “Food companies can use this data and market their product through this type of data discovery, making recipes a little bit better and more dynamic,” he said.

Smell: Sensors will analyze odour, a technology that could both detect illness and measure the health of crops.

Outside of agriculture and medical fields, marketers could use smell sensors to market any product that has a scent, from perfume to laundry detergent. “You could use your phone to find all the perfumes that smell like your favourite flower,” said Hassanbegovic. “In the food industry, your phone could smell your favourite food and help guide you to its location.”

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