IBM is predicting that in the next five years we'll no longer need passwords for email or even ATMs, we'll be able to control smartphones and laptops with our minds, and we may even live in a world without junk email.
Too good to be true? Today, yes. But researchers at tech companies such as IBM are working on bringing these ideas to fruition, which is why the 100-year-old tech giant is including these and other ideas in its sixth annual "5 in 5" report of five technologies "that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years."
Mind-reading gadgets: IBM and other companies are working on devices that you can control with your mind. For example, rather than having to tap on a touch screen or through a series of buttons to place a phone call, someday you may need only to imagine calling someone and a mind-reading phone will make the connection, IBM said.
"If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens," IBM said of its prediction. "Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it."
Mind-reading technology, known as bioinformatics, has already shown up in simple forms from toy makers such as Mattel, and engineers at IBM and other companies "have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions," the report said.
"Within five years we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry," IBM said. "Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism."
No more passwords: Passwords will be left behind as devices instead grant you access by recognizing who you are, IBM is predicting.
"Your biological makeup is the key to your individual identity, and soon it will become the key to safeguarding it," IBM said. "Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye. Or by doing the same, you can check your account balance on your mobile phone or tablet."
A bit freaky right? An example of this sort of technology hitting the mainstream can already be seen in the facial recognition technology used in the "face unlock" feature found in the latest version of Google's Android operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
"Biometric data -- facial definitions, retinal scans and voice files -- will be composited through software to build your DNA-unique, online password," IBM said. "Referred to as multifactor biometrics, smarter systems will be able to use this information in real time to make sure whenever someone is attempting to access your information, it matches your unique biometric profile and the attempt is authorized."