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3-D Phones, Longer-Life Batteries are Tomorrow's Innovations

  • Faiza Elmasry

IBM picks 5 technologies it expects to take off in the next 5 years

Three-dimensional cell phones and batteries that last much longer are just two of the techonogies that could become commonplace in the next few years.

For the fifth year, IBM has looked at the horizons of research, picked five technologies and announced them as tomorrow’s innovations.

"Individual technologies take different times to matriculate," says John Cohn, IBM’s Chief Scientist. "But the thing that’s common about them is that we think in 2015, all these predictions will actually be something that we take for granted."

Cohn says 3-D technology is at the top of the company’s "Five in Five" list. While movies and television are already moving to the 3-D interfaces, he says this technology will enable us to interact with photos, browse the web and chat with friends in entirely new ways.

"Smart phones, for example, will be able to do 3-Ds and you will not require glasses. Imagine your friend calling from another city and having him or her pop up almost like Princess Leia in Star Wars. It’s really the science of optics. where beaming into individual eyes, the light gives the perception of 3-D, and tells the brain that you’re seeing a 3-D image," says Cohn. "We think that it will make communication much more personal."

And when we interact with friends in 3-D on our cell phones, Cohn says, there will be no worries about our need to recharge the phone battery. Future batteries will last much longer than they do today.

"We have scientists who are looking at new battery chemistries, looking at lithium air batteries. Imagine a battery that actually recharges by breathing air like you and I do. So when it’s sitting on the bed table at night while you’re sleeping, it’s recharging," he says. "That means that you can go 10 times longer without recharging. That’s really good, not only that it is more convenient, but it also means fewer of these batteries will end up in the waste stream."

The third innovation on IBM’s list involves power - technology to capture heat from our computers and re-use it.

"As you use computers, as you’re surfing for the web, especially in large data centers, it generates a lot of heat. Right now, that heat is wasted. It actually just gets pulled away and it goes out through the chimneys. Well, our scientists are putting small channels actually into the chips that do the computing, taking that heat back and using heat pump technology to then heat a building or even cool a building. So the energy will be reclaimed. So computing will become a lot more energy efficient."

Our commutes will also become more efficient, thanks to developments in transportation.

"Right now your GPS (Global Positioning System) might be able to tell you there is congestion up ahead. Our scientists are now using traffic prediction technology, not just detection, but prediction, so that by knowing everyone’s driving patterns, knowing about the arrival times of planes, trains, we’ll be able to give everyone personalized commuting instructions. So rather than waiting for congestion to happen, then moving people around it, we’ll be able to anticipate and prevent that congestion on the same roadways and everyone will move more smoothly."

And as data technologies develop, Cohn says, each of us will be able to contribute to saving the planet.

"As people are moving into their lives, like commuting, all of these devices- their laptops, their cell phones, their cars even - are connected in sort of an internet of things. All of that will be gathering data and so people will be helping gathering info about traffic flow, about air flow, even seismic activities. Your cell phone will be able to tell scientists about earthquakes and tsunamis that have happened. So everyone will be participating in this web of citizen scientists. So those are the five."