Most of you have probably heard of the Nintendo Wii, an increasingly popular video game system that features motion controls. Some of you may have even played it. Part of the reason I’m mentioning it here is because I’m a dedicated Nintendo fan, but the real motive is a very interesting (and free) feature that I haven’t heard much talk about: the News Channel.
At first glance the program seems to be a fairly standard headline news browsing tool (it is constantly connected to a feed from the Associated Press as its content). Play with it for a little while longer, though, and you will discover a “Globe” interface, which lets users navigate around a 3D world and see news stories literally piled on top of the region that they pertain to. If you zoom in the stories will fly around to more specific regions, such as cities or towns. To read the stories in a stack you simply point and click with the “Wii-mote” on the pile that you want to explore.
The application lacks a lot of functionality and probably won’t solve all our problems any time soon – Nintendo’s focus is not on news – but it illustrates how even a small step in the right direction can add so much more to a story by showing where. It also demonstrates how this location information can be used to drastically improve the browsing experience.
Sure, we don’t have motion sensing pointer devices at our disposal and must rely on Google Maps, but it is still well within our reach to move beyond list interfaces that let users A) pick from a list, or B) search and THEN pick from a list. With that, I would suggest you go try it out yourself; I’m sure someone nearby has a Wii.