TECH
12/23/2010 01:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

IBM Predicts Holographic Phones, Air-Breathing Batteries In Next 5 Years (VIDEO)

IBM has consulted with the oracle, and they have five predictions for how technology will reshape the world in the next five years.

IBM just released their "Five in Five" predictions for 2015, a list they've been compiling since 2006. The company surveys its 3,000 researchers to narrow down the five ideas that seem most likely to gather traction.

First up is Star Wars-ready holographic calling. Imagine dialing up grandma and having a 3D avatar pop up from the screen. The popularity of video chat services such as those offered by Skype and Apple's FaceTime are already priming consumers for a new kind of call. Movies and TVs are also developing the 3D technology that could enable these kinds of holographic phones.

IBM also predicts there will be batteries that will breathe in oxygen and turn out energy. Batteries will last ten times longer, an issue that moves to solve the feeble battery life of many smartphones. What's more, smaller electronics may actually be able to dispense of batteries altogether and run on static or kinetic electricity.

Energy preservation will also play a role in the use of computer heat. Right now, up to half of the energy consumed in data centers goes towards cooling computers. The heat they emit is wasted in the atmosphere. Imagine if that heat could instead be recycled to power air conditioning, or other systems.

IBM also anticipates the growth of pre-existing technologies. Though GPS plays a role in driving already, IBM envisions a far more sophisticated version which will take into account, in realtime, accidents, construction and delays on the road as well as driver patterns and behaviors. Such a system could predict congestion before it happens by calculating the numerous possible scenarios that affect traffic.

Their final prediction harnesses the power of ordinary citizens to assist scientists in their studies. People are "walking sensors" whose cars, wallets, phones, and other devices have the power to gather huge amounts of data just by wandering around the streets. Sensors pick up information about a person's environment automatically. That information could then be given to scientists who will use it to better understand the world.

Despite the science fiction flavor IBM's list exudes, these predictions are no joke to the company itself, which is engaged in an ongoing battle to anticipate what technologies will be indispensable in the future--technologies that no one has yet heard of. Last year, IBM spent $5.8 billion in research and development. In other words, the technologies they predict may be the technologies they have a hand in making a reality.

2011 marks five years since IBM's first list in 2006, which predicted we would have mind-reading phones and automatic speech translation technology by now.

Watch the video below (via YouTube):