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Nintendo DSi's cameras: What are they for?

Nintendo DSi hanheld game console gets two cameras. Don Reisinger thinks that's not enough to warrant an upgrade.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Nintendo DSi
Nintendo DSi gets its name from the two cameras? Nintendo

A Nintendo of America representative told TechRadar earlier this week that Nintendo's latest entrant into the handheld gaming market, the DSi, has an 'i' attached to the end of its name because "the addition of two cameras gives the system its own "eye" on things." The representative also said it's symbolic of the personal "I."

Cryptic branding aside, are the two cameras really so compelling? I don't see it.

I realize that adding two cameras to the DSi means Nintendo can use that functionality to enhance games and prove that it too can expand the feature set of mobile devices, just like Sony has with the PSP, but I simply don't see how two cameras will somehow improve the experience of my DS.

Perhaps the most compelling use of the DSi's dual-camera setup won't come from Nintendo at all, but from homebrew or third-party apps. The DSi would make an interesting video-conferencing platform, for example.

But so far, Nintendo representatives have said that the two cameras will be used in some way during gameplay to enhance the user's experience. And when not using them for gaming, users will be able to take pictures with both cameras and edit them on the DSi.

That may sound compelling to some, but I'm just not excited for dual cameras. As a DS owner, how important can that dual camera design really be to my "experience?" Sure, there are other features added to the DSi that Nintendo hopes will coax some of us to switch, but considering the vast majority of Nintendo customers will own a DS or DS Lite after the DSi is released, how many developers will really want to tie their game to the DSi's two cameras? I'm guessing few, if any.

The DSi isn't a viable option to replace my current DS. It gets worse battery life, doesn't have a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot, and instead of being the next iteration of the DS, it's actually a complementary version that will be sold next to Nintendo's venerable handheld. Oh, and it's more expensive, too (around $180).

In essence, the DSi's major new update is its two cameras, and I'm not sure how Nintendo or third-party developers will use them. Suffice it to say that editing pictures that I take with my two cameras doesn't justify spending an additional $180 to have the latest Nintendo handheld.

Sorry, Nintendo, but for that "i", I'd need more than two cameras.

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