You can hear a lot by listening
Mark Scapicchio 270000CV2J SCAPICCH@US.IBM.COM | | Tags:  5-in-5 software ibm
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Years ago my father-in-law told me a story about a pal of his, a real estate investor who narrowly escaped a very risky deal. The man was about to finalize the purchase of a high-rise office building in Hawaii – in fact, he was in a conference room on the top floor of that building, waiting for the seller to arrive so they could close the deal.
To pass the time, the man went to the window to enjoy what would soon be his – or his paying tenants’ – spectacular view. But as he approached the window he heard a faint, persistent, high-pitched tone, like a sound from a tiny tuning fork. And when he pressed his hand to the window he felt a slight but steady vibration.
It could have been nothing more than the wind. But the man went with his gut, delayed the purchase, and paid for a second set of building and site inspections. It turned out the building sat directly on a fault line – a fault line associated with the movement of subterranean volcanic magma.
My father-in-law’s friend walked away from the deal, feeling lucky. But IBM predicts that in the near future, this type of discovery won’t have anything to do with luck. One of this year’s IBM ‘5 in 5’ predictions is that, five years from now, computers will hear what matters – e.g., that a swaying, healthy-looking tree is about to snap and fall into the road; that a customer you're talking with is unhappy, even if she’s smiling; that a baby’s cry means he’s sick, not hungry. (Being able to discern these subtleties will no doubt be valuable, but as the human attention span seems to approach zero as an asymptote, a computer that simply hears what we miss sounds like a must-have tool to me.)
Read about all five of IBM’s 2012 ‘5-in-5’ predictions – each corresponding to one of the five human senses. Vote for the one you think will happen first. And don’t be afraid to admit which prediction (Being able to touch things through your phone? Digital taste buds?) makes you a little uneasy.
Mark Scapicchio is editor of the IBM Software Newsletter. Subscribe today.