Keyboards and mice may seem like clunky artifacts of the past within the next five years, pushed aside in favor of the ultimate user interface: the human mind.

That’s according to IBM, which just published its “5 in 5″ forecast: a prediction about five innovations that will fundamentally change our world within the next five years. The most head-turning prediction: we’ll be able to use the power of our minds to operate machines.

This isn’t telepathy, so those hoping to get a real-time stream of thoughts from an individual had best look to shows like Heroes or Bablylon 5. What IBM envisions is using a simple brain-machine interface (BMI) that can detect different kinds of brainwaves and tell a computer to respond a certain way.

Extremely simple versions of the technology already exist in products like the Star Wars Force Trainer, which includes a headset that’s based on electroencephalography (EEG). More advanced versions of the technology have been beneficial to the disabled at operating computers.

Now IBM wants to take the tech mainstream. Big Blue says it’s working on technology for people to use their brains to interface with their everyday devices, like phones and PCs. “Just think about calling someone, and it happens,” IBM promises in this video:

Rounding out the other four technologies that IBM sees exploding in five years: passwords become replaced by multiple biometric scans, people will help power their homes simply by moving around, the digital divide will be eliminated by the wide accessibility of mobile technology, and spam will actually evolve into something useful.

The thrust behind IBM’s predictions isn’t just to pick the technologies that are the most promising, but also to find the ones that have the potential to reach the mass market.


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