Real-time language translation, medical monitoring via the mobile web and nanotechnology to purify water are some of the innovations IBM Labs thinks will be on the market within five years.
But sorry, says IBM s George Pohle, still no jet packs.
"These are not just 'Gee,whiz,' innovations, but practical innovations that we are working on today," says Pohle, of IBM's Global Business Services, during a presentation he called the "Next Five in Five" at the company's Silicon Valley Lab in San Jose, California.
At a press conference Pohle announced research into nanotechnology could result in development of a cloth embedded with carbon nano particles through which potable water could be filtered to make it instantly drinkable. For every gallon of water on Earth, only one drop is drinkable without filtration, he says.
The next five years could see more development of a three-dimensional Internet, he continued, in which a tourist contemplating a trip to the Forbidden City in China could visit a 3-D version of it online. This, too, has business applications, as it could enhance collaboration between co-workers in different countries, or allow retail customers to browse in a 3-D version of a physical store.
Pohle demonstrated a real time translation program. Real-time translation has business applications, Pohle said, because global companies can more easily collaborate with others in foreign countries.
Another innovation makes it possible for doctors in an office to monitor a patient in their home via sensors that would transmit patient data sent over the Internet.
IBM also sees the potential for advanced "presence technology," which already makes it possible for a GPS-enabled cell phone to send notice of a special sale at a store as the user walks by it. Pohle says it may soon be possible to point a camera phone at a painting in a museum and have the phone display information about the painting such as the artist or the year it was painted.
Although some of this technology is not entirely new, the demonstration shows how technology labs like IBM's aren't just brainstorming, but developing viable products, says Carl Claunch, director of research at Gartner Research.
"A lot of this [research] is filtered around commercial availability," Claunch says.
Revealing lab research helps a company maintain its customer relationships, Claunch says. "Being able to talk about continuous innovation shows they understand what you will need in the future."