IBM researchers predict batteries that breathe

Batteries that breathe, smartphones that display 3-D images of callers and laptops powered by kinetic energy: These are some of the innovations that could take root by 2015, according to an annual survey released Thursday of over 3,000 researchers at IBM’s Almaden research labs.

According to a video posted by the company on YouTube, the batteries will use energy-dense metals that only need to interact with air to recharge and could last ten times as long as the lithium-ion batteries that are in use today. Other devices may use kinetic energy in order to get their charge.

Another innovation that could make it out of the lab within five years is a computer program to analyze real time information, historical data and special algorithms to predict where traffic congestion will take place.

IBM’s scientists also anticipated that engineers will figure out a way to use the massive amounts of heat generated by computer data centres to keep cities warm. Scientists will also use sensors from your home, wallet, car and smartphone to monitor environmental conditions, the survey, called IBM’s Five in Five, predicted.

IBM said that the predictions are all rooted in actual research work done by the company’s scientists using IBM’s 5.8-billion-dollar research budget, the largest corporate research budget in the world.

However, not all these predictions will come true, at least not in the time frame cited, if past predictions are any indication.

In 2006, IBM researchers predicted that instant speech translation would be ubiquitous. Though web translation services are increasingly proficient, we are still a long way from inputting speech in one language into smartphones and having it instantly translated for the person on the other end of a phone call.

In 2007 one prediction was that virtual worlds and immersive online games such as Second Life would become ubiquitous. Instead people have flocked to real world extensions like Facebook and Twitter, and embraced casual games like Farmville and Angry Birds where no great expertise is needed.