How Computers With Humanlike Senses Will Change Our Lives

With help from artificial intelligence and special sensors, next-generation robots will be able to perform tasks ranging from understanding speech in a noisy environment to sniffing out phony wine

Even the smartest computers cannot fully understand the world without the ability to see, hear, smell, taste or touch. But in the decadeslong race to make software think like humans—and beat them at “Jeopardy!”—the idea of endowing a machine with humanlike senses seemed far-fetched. Not anymore, engineers and researchers say.

Capabilities...