Computers will be able to out-think the entire world population put together within the next 60 years, the head of Lucent's research division has forecast.
First, though, phones will be able to tell how their owners smell, Jeong Kim, Bell Labs' president told reporters in Seoul yesterday.
Kim's comments, conveyed by local paper Joong Ang Daily, make scary reading.
Smell-o-vision phones will come in five to ten years, Kim believes, sampling the odour of the caller and transmitting it to the recipient via the airwaves and an odour-releasing device on the handset. In the same timeframe, handsets will be able to scan for changes in a caller's facial expression.
We're not sure why you'd want that: surely by 2015 we'll all be using videophones, so we'll be able to see the caller's expression. Or maybe by then we'll be dialling numbers that way, using nods and winks to signal numbers and letters. Given the differences between cultures around the world, such a system would make cheap grey imports far too embarrassing to use.
He also said phones will eventually respond to mental commands.
Making all this possible will be what Kim refers to as "nanotechnology", on the subject of which he makes his most startling prediction:
"If nanotechnology maintains its current pace of development, it will give birth to a computer that has the information processing capacity equivalent to every human brain combined by 2060."
If Kim is correct, computers will clearly be smart enough to know you want to make a call before you yourself do. If they're that clever, they'll be able to work out the answer before the call's recipient can. Pretty soon they'll realise there's no need to bother with the human element in the first place - particularly if they detect one or both of the participants hasn't taken a shower recently and all they do is wink at each other... ®