A Phone with Better Taste Than You

We always talk about our smartphones getting smarter and smarter, but we rarely talk about them getting more…sensual? Sensitive? Sensuous?

IBM is on push to do just that, though, with a video and some marketing materials around what they’re calling “cognitive computing.” Basically, a computer or smartphone with all five senses, on that can distinguish between sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactiles and then communicate that difference to you with haptics and controlled vibration technologies.

Basically, a phone that can tell you what a shirt feels like before you buy it online. Or tell us what a desert tastes like (as well as its caloric and nutritional content) before we order it, one that can tell the difference between a Matisse and a van Gogh. Between Coltrane and Monk. From the article:

In the era of cognitive systems, humans and machines will collaborate to produce better results–each bringing their own superior skills to the partnership. The machines will be more rational and analytic. We’ll provide the judgment, empathy, morale compass and creativity.

Of course, this also has consequences for the future of AI. If a computer can hear, why not give it ears? Taste, how about a tongue? See? It should have eyes.

More relevantly, it means the phone will become even more a part of our lives. We won’t just be trusting it to access a consensus of information to tell us the best restaurants, routes, and rates, but exactly what we should eat, buy, and experience. Maybe even out to evolve our own aesthetics.

IBM is giving us the usual five-year timeframe for these advances, close enough to get excited about it, but far enough away that we’ll forget about the specific prediction if it doesn’t come true. But at least t’s a set of predictions much more refreshing than the usual, “smaller, faster, smarter” predictions, even if it means our phones will have better “taste” in everything than us.

Photo credit: Kevin, Flickr (adapted)