What if you could see the invisible? What if you could detect a disease if before you see its symptoms? In 5 years, IBM believes that it can make a wide stride to achieve these and much more.
The tech giant unveiled today the annual “IBM 5 in 5” – a list of ground-breaking scientific innovations with the potential to change the way people work, live, and interact during the next five years. Here are the five scientific instruments that will make the invisible visible in the next 5 years:
1. AI will open a window into our mental health
IBM scientists are using transcripts and audio inputs from psychiatric interviews, coupled with machine learning techniques, to find patterns in speech to help clinicians accurately predict and monitor psychosis, schizophrenia, mania and depression. In the future, similar techniques could be used to help patients with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, PTSD and even neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD.
2. Hyperimaging and AI will give superhero vision
IBM scientists are building a compact hyperimaging platform that “sees” across separate portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in one platform to potentially enable a host of practical and affordable devices and applications. A view of the invisible or vaguely visible physical phenomena all around us could help make road and traffic conditions clearer for drivers and self-driving cars.
3. Macroscopes will help us understand Earth’s complexity in infinite detail
In five years, IBM aims to employ machine learning algorithms and software to help us organize the information about the physical world to help bring the vast and complex data gathered by billions of devices within the range of our vision and understanding. They call this a “macroscope” – but unlike the microscope to see the very small, or the telescope that can see far away, it is a system of software and algorithms to bring all of Earth’s complex data together to analyze it for meaning.
4. Medical labs “on a chip” will serve as health detectives for tracing disease at nanoscale
Early detection of disease is crucial. In most cases, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be cured or well controlled. At IBM Research, scientists are developing lab-on-a-chip nanotechnology that can separate and isolate bioparticles down to 20 nanometers in diameter, a scale that gives access to DNA, viruses, and exosomes. These particles could be analyzed to potentially reveal the presence of disease even before we have symptoms.
5. Smart sensors will detect environmental pollution at the speed of light
And here comes the final one. Most pollutants are invisible to the human eye, until their effects make them impossible to ignore. IBM plans to bring affordable sensing technologies deployed near natural gas extraction wells, around storage facilities, and along distribution pipelines that will enable the industry to pinpoint invisible leaks in real-time. Scientists at IBM are tackling this vision, working with natural gas producers such as Southwestern Energy to explore the development of an intelligent methane monitoring system and as part of the ARPA-E Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions (MONITOR) program.
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