Do smart-watches make a good business case? They do less than our smart phones do. They are ergonomically limited. They have a certain Google Glass stigma. In baseball that’s three strikes and means you’re taking you seat on the bench.

Despite manufactures love of and ability to do iterative product development and some admittedly nice industrial design they have struggled to make a compelling case for the smart-watch. Case in point is the indifference of the consumer. It’s not flying off shelves it’s fair to say. It seems the knot needing to be untied is why would someone really want one? What would allow the smart-watch to provide a better user experience and change the perception of the device from tech novelty to must have?

The answer may lie in the next generation of user interface. If you look at the smart phone as a parallel the introduction of a quality touch screen was a game changer. It allowed for a large colour screen and UX designers and engineers to fundamentally alter the way we interact with the device. While not in the purest sense, it was none the less a killer app. Could something like that happen to smart-watches? Could the way we perceive the device be made cool and relevant through innovative UI? For a possible answer look no further than the interface work being done at Carniege Mellon by PhD students Gierad Laput and Robert Kiao. While not ready for prime time it shows how the physical interface would become central to the experience and allow for the expression to be re-written.

Although genius is always recognized in hindsight this new way of interacting with the smart-watch will need some serious engineering to allow it to be incorporated into the device. Based on current technologies it’s possible but would take optimistically one or two generations to accomplish but very possibly three and would the device survive the interim? The good news is manufactures likely see the potential. The bad news is that we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a gambler among them. Remember the first iPhone? All the major players knew about touch screens but only Steve Jobs believed strongly enough that touch screen technology was a game changer and worth the huge bet he made. Time will tell if there’s another willing to roll the dice on an innovation and make a bet that it could provide a powerful new user experience and real consumer relevance for the smart-watch.

 Image: Chris Harrison


Follow Ted Blanchard on Twitter. Ted Blanchard is a Senior Creative Producer, Art Director and Design Practitioner.