IOD 2010: IBM's mind control and smart homes
IBM is looking to make the planet smarter with its range of emerging technology.
While IBM’s Smarter Planet philosophy is heavily entrenched in making use of data for businesses, Big Blue has also been involved in the development of more tangible technology that could make the world a better place.
At the IBM Information on Demand 2010 event in Rome, IT PRO got to try out some of the new tech that may alter the way in which we live.
Here are some of the most fascinating creations showcased at the conference.
By far the most fun emerging technology on show at the Expo Solution Centre was a mind-control headset that allowed the user to move objects with facial gestures. The device uses sensors that recognise expressions that can then be translated into particular actions.
IT PRO tested the Emotiv Systems headset, moving a small remote control car by simply raising and lowering the eyebrows. Although the ability to manipulate the direction of the toy was non-existent, the potential was clear and Kevin Brown from IBM’s emerging technology division explained that, with certain software, the user can “train” actions so the system is more refined.
The sensors on the headset also pick up on electric signals from the creative part of the brain, meaning it can recognise emotions. What this could develop into remains to be seen – environment shifts to fit your mood perhaps?
A sign of the times
Technology has the capacity to do a lot of good in the world and this was highlighted by the Say It Sign It (SiSi) system on show at IOD 2010. SiSi converts speech into text, which is then translated into British Sign Language (BSL) through the use of an avatar.
Although not yet fully developed, the system would have a signing avatar appear in the corner of a display screen in use. Dr Peter Waggett, another member of IBM’s emerging technologies division, pointed out that significant savings could be made by firms that would usually have to pay for a human sign language interpreter when working with deaf people.
BSL is the first language for an estimated 55,000 people so it is not hard to imagine the possibilities with SiSi, but the challenge of translating non-BSL sign languages will need to be tackled to make the technology truly global.
The smarter home
Green IT has been an area of growing importance for businesses in recent times. IBM’s Smarter Home technologies, which could benefit businesses as well, give people greater control over how much energy they use.
Ed Jellard, also from the emerging technologies team, showed how RFID technology can be used in conjunction with a smartphone to create systems where power use can be monitored. For instance, the user could establish a set up where lights would change colour depending on how much electricity was being used, such as green for low consumption and red for high energy use.
Jellard claimed that using such technology could help cut a building's consumption by 20 per cent. Dr Waggett added that the price of sensors used in such smarter homes are “plummeting”, while the “lastablility of the equipment is going up”.
Read on for more news on IBM’s IOD 2010.