As the year nears its close, IBM, as it has every year since 2006, has pulled out the crystal ball and given us its predictions of five innovations that it believes will impact our lives in the next five years. For this year’s “5-in-5” list, IBM has taken a slightly different approach, with each entry on the list relating to our senses. The company believes cognitive computing whereby computers learn rather than passively relying on programming will be at the core of these innovations, enabling systems that will enhance and augment each of our five senses.
According to pingdom, in 2011 on average there were 4.5 million photos uploaded to Flickr everyday contributing to some 6 billion photos hosted on the site, there were an estimated 100 billion photos on Facebook and 60 photos uploaded every second to Instagram. While it is digital cameras that are responsible for this explosion in online photographic content, digital technology is still pretty “dumb” when it comes to analyzing images. This means sorting through them generally relies on user-defined tags and text descriptions, which are time consuming to set up and not always accurate.
IBM says that in the next five years, cognitive computing technology will allow computers to examine thousands of images and recognize patterns and distinct features to determine their content. For example, in beach scenes the computer might recognize certain color distributions that are common to such images, while for a downtown cityscape it might learn that certain distributions of edges are what sets them apart. Then once it has the general location down, it could be taught about the activities that are likely to be carried out there.
While such technology would make image searches on the Web easier, IBM says cognitive visual computing could be used to recognize tumors, blood clots and other problems at their early stages – something that is already happening for the early detection of potentially deadly melanoma. The technology could also help in the real time monitoring of disaster areas through analyzing images uploaded to social networking sites or keeping an eye out for potential security issues by monitoring security camera images.