Nov 26, 2008

Tech - IBM unveils list of innovations (G.Read)

Imagine surfing the Internet by using your voice, eliminating the need for visuals or keypads or think about getting medical treatment based on your genetic makeup under USD 100.

These innovations feature on computing giant IBM's third annual 'IBM Next Five in Five' list, which was unveiled on Tuesday.

"These innovations have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. I cannot comment on when these innovations will be available to the masses, but the details are being worked on," IBM India Research Laboratory Director Guruduth Banavar said.

The five selected innovations are based on market and societal trends, on-going projects in IBM's research labs, insights from IBM's business think tank and ideas from employees and partners around the world, in the US, China, Japan, Israel, Switzerland and India.

The list includes 'thin-film' solar cells, which are 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells used today, are cost-efficient and can be 'printed' and arranged on a flexible backing, on the sides of buildings, tinted windows, cell phones, laptops, cars, and even clothing.

With the retail segment growing by leaps and bounds, the trail rooms are also set to be computerised. "As fitting rooms are outfitted with digital shopping assistants like touch screen and voice activated kiosks, sales associate will be notified of the choice of clothing, and will gather the items and bring them directly to the shopper.

"Also, one will be able to snap photos of himself in different combinations and email or SMS them to friends and family for their opinion," he said.

In a take from Jim Carrey starrer 'The Truman Show', the list also features recording of people's activities so that they do not forget anything.

"The details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed, and provided at the appropriate time and place by portable and stationary smart appliances. People can then be prompted to 'remember', where they, for example, put a book, or what they discussed with their daughter or doctor over the telephone," Banavar said.

An innovation that was developed primarily by the India centre is the 'VoiceSites'.

"In places like India, where the spoken word is more prominent than the written word, 'talking' to the Web can actually work as the mobile penetration is higher than that of PCs. In the future, through the use of 'VoiceSites', even people who are unable to read or write, will be able to use the web as they become more accessible," he said.

The list includes use of the advanced computational skills like gene mapping and storage of information in the field of medicine.

"The study for treating diseases by identifying faulty genes has been going on for some time now. But with the advancement in computational skills, now doctors will be able to diagnose keeping one's gene composition in mind, all under say a 100 dollars," Banavar added.

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