What’s on IBM’s “Next Five in Five”?

By 2015, you could see the 3-D image of a person calling you and might be able to plan in advance the shortest and less traffic-congested route to the office.

Not enough? Even “breathing” batteries and laptops powered by kinetic energy could be on the way over the next five years, according to the latest technology predictions from IBM.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant has released its annual “Next Five in Five” list of five innovations expected to hit the ground by 2015. The predictions are based on surveys conducted with more than 3,000 researchers at IBM’s Almaden research lab.

People could be able to interact with faraway friends in 3-D and even conduct videoconferencing through holographic cameras that fit into cell phones allowing video chat, IBM researchers said.

The company also expects that today’s lithium-ion batteries could be replaced by batteries using energy-dense metals that only need to interact with the air to recharge and that those kinds of batteries could last 10 times longer than the current battery technology.

“If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful, and rechargeable battery capable of powering everything from electric cars to consumer devices,” IBM said.

In addition, IBM noted that “adaptive traffic systems” could personalize your commute and predict traffic congestions and other issues by computer programs that forecast traffic jams, thereby allowing a person to reach his or her destination with minimum interruptions on road.

IBM says citizens could collect real-time data about their environment with the help of sensors in cars, phones, or wallets and that the information can then be used by professional scientists for research, according to a video posted by the company on YouTube.

IBM researchers also predict that future homes could be powered by heat generated by computer servers as scientists find ways to better recycle heat and energy from data centers to heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer.

“Up to 50% of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling,” IBM said. “Most of the heat is then wasted because it is just dumped into the atmosphere.”

IBM released its first list of predictions in 2006, and all predictions have not come true. In 2006, IBM scientists said instantaneous speech translation would become the norm, but that has yet to happen.

However, a 2007 prediction that mobile phones will act as a wallet, ticket booker, bank, and shopping assistant have come true, driven by a surge in smartphone applications. Today, consumers can pay utility bills, buy movie tickets, perform financial transactions, and do shopping, all with their phones.

IBM, the world’s largest provider of computer services, is one of the few big corporations investing in long-range research projects and invested $5.8 billion in research and development last year, accounting for 6.1% of revenue, according to the company’s financials.

Separately, IBM said its “racetrack” memory technology, which could enable a handheld device like an MP3 player to store about 3,500 movies or 500,000 songs, is a step closer to commercial viability.

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