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Nintendo DS to receive Web, VoIP, TV abilities

It appears that the Nintendo DS - the so-called "kid's machine" -- is growing up.

It appears that the Nintendo DS -- the so-called "kid's machine" -- is growing up. At the D.I.C.E. Summit held in Las Vegas last week, Nintendo announced that the DS would soon support voice over IP, a function that will let DS users chat in real time, thanks to the machine's integrated microphone. Though currently planned to work in the pre- and post-game lobbies of only one title, Metroid Prime: Hunters, there is likely to be more in store for the DS's VoIP capabilities in the future.

According to an announcement made by Nintendo today, the plans for the DS's future don't stop at VoIP. At a press conference in Japan, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed that the handheld will soon have the ability to surf the Web and watch digital television broadcasts.

President Iwata has revealed the Nintendo DS Browser, a Web browser made by Oslo, Norway-based Opera Software. The browser will be based on Opera's PC Internet browser but will take advantage of some of the DS's integrated capabilities. The browser will be cartridge-based and is slated for release in Japan this June at the price of 3,800 yen (AU$44). Nintendo is considering shipping the product overseas.

Browsing will take place on both screens, and an onscreen keypad and the stylus will control navigation and input. The DS's two screens can be used to show off a single Web page, or the DS can scale down a site to fit on one screen and use the other to zoom in on a portion of the site.

P>Rather than using the D pad and buttons to input text, DS owners can use the stylus to write on the DS's touch screen, which features PDA-style handwriting recognition. The browser will also feature an onscreen keyboard.

The DS will double as a television. Iwata unveiled a new accessory that lets users watch TV broadcasts on the DS. The product is tentatively named DS Chijouha Digital Housou Jushin Card (DS digital-broadcast receiver card) and will be compliant with the new 1seg broadcast service, a digital signal designed for mobile devices, which will launch in Japan this April. 1seg broadcasts run in QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels).

The DS digital-broadcast receiver card will snap into the handheld's DS cartridge slot and feature an extendable antenna. The TV will be displayed on the upper screen, and the bottom screen will have buttons that can switch channels. Nintendo had a sample of the broadcast tuner running at the conference, but it was a prototype that used the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot. No release date has been announced for the product yet.

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