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IBM's Five Tech Predictions for 2015

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OK, in five years, if we don't have food hydrators, flying cars, and live updates to our newspapers, my inner nine-year-old will be very upset. But IBM's predictions as to what the next half decade will provide in the way of technology are a somewhat decent compromise.

IBM hazards a guess in its newly released "Next Five in Five" list -- an annual compendium of inventions expected to come our way in five years. Over 3,000 researchers at the company's Almaden research lab contributed their esteemed opinions to produce this list.

And yet, no one expects a hoverboard.

Apparently undeterred by the rampant disinterest in 3-D TV, IBM researchers expect a wave of innovation in holographic technology. Three-dimensional interfaces are expected to begin hitting our laptops and televisions, with advancements going as far as holographic video conferencing from your smartphone. But given that it's difficult in 2010 for one of the most popular smartphones to even make a phone call, I'm going to hedge my guess and put virtual holograms in the "maybe" pile.

A far likelier prediction is a more efficient battery. Scientists are developing lighter, less dense batteries which react with air and kinetic energy in order to stay charged. Similar to wristwatches which wind themselves through arm movement, these batteries will charge themselves with a simple shake. New transistors which require less voltage would also lessen the dependence on heavy lithium-ion batteries.

Coming as bad news for the conspiracy theorists, data sensors will become more ubiquitous. IBM predicts an increased number of sensors in smartphones, cars, wallets, basically all of your personal items. On the theoretical plus side, these sensors will provide information about our surroundings which would enable scientists to better record stats worldwide. Everything from seismic activity, the first thaw, to the number of mosquitoes in the area could be of enormous benefit to scientific research.

Perhaps the most likely prediction out of the five -- mostly due to Google's already-impressive work with traffic patterns -- is improved travel recommendations. Commuters will have personalized routes for every destination, based on prior trips, current traffic, and estimated travel time. Seeing as how we're roughly at that point already, I'm not sure why researchers believed the technology required a five-year incubation period before being released to consumers. We're currently three-quarters of the way there.

Last on the list is better environmental control. Utilizing the heat given off by computers and data centers when working at full capacity, scientists might be able to recycle that energy into heating homes during the winter or powering air conditioners in the summer. Future water-cooling systems would also help reduce the whopping amounts of energy needed to cool modern data centers.

Granted, none of these predictions include a self-drying jacket. But by losing the cool, we may be gaining the beneficial.

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