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What smartwatch makers need to do next

Smartwatch makers would like us to think their tiny wearable devices represent the next technology wave.

Maybe. Yet for now, smartwatches are not ready for prime time. The current smartwatch crop is unlikely to break out from a geek niche.

Smartwatches have to get past two barriers. First, they are not useful enough to compensate for the cost, effort and the physical space they take up.

Tiny touch screens aren't great

Second tiny touch screens are not the way to go. A quick look at what has happened to smartphone screens shows that people want bigger, better displays.

Apple may have something special, er, up its sleeve to change this.

In the meantime, one thing could push smart watches into the mainstream: Voice recognition.

Something like Siri, only more so. Or, if you prefer, like a swept-up version of the speech commands used with Google Glass.

A speaking watch

Instead of squinting at a tiny screen for information, a next generation wearable device can speak the information. Today's speech technology is good enough for this to sound almost natural.

Decent voice recognition means no more struggling with swipe gestures on a tiny display.

Now here's the rub. When the screen becomes less essential, the device doesn't have to sit on your wrist. It could become a badge — like the communicators Star Fleet officers use in the Star Trek TV shows. You could ask questions: What is the time of the next meeting, when does the next train arrive, what is the square root of 37?