Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

By 2018, computers will touch, see, hear, taste and smell

In its annual '5 in 5' predictions, IBM forecasted that in five years, computers will gain the five senses and be able to experience the world as humans do.


gallery ibm 5 senses smell

Do you think you're coming down with a cold? In five years, you'll be able to breathe into your smartphone to find out.

IBM researchers are developing technology to analyze odors in people's breath that identify ailments, including liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes and epilepsy. By determining which odors and molecules in a person's breath are associated with each disease, computers of the future will be able to make an instant analysis for problems that today could be misdiagnosed or go undetected by a doctor.

Computers will also be able to detect harmful bacteria that cause Staph infections in hospitals just by smelling the surroundings.

In a more rudimentary form, computers are smelling things now: Agricultural sensors smell soil to determine crop conditions, sensors in museums determine which gas levels are ideal to preserve paintings, and city sanitation departments use computers that can smell garbage and pollution to alert workers when conditions are getting dangerous.

- Last updated December 17 2012 09:11 AM ET