Nintendo Puts Handwriting on DS Wall

Zi Corporation yesterday said it has signed a licensing agreement with Nintendo to provide the video game giant’s developers the ability to employ its handwriting recognition technology.

Zi Corporation, a Canadian intelligent interface software provider, said Nintendo plans to use its Decuma technology to create software for the DS handheld video game system. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“As the leading provider of handheld video game systems in the world, Nintendo has a reputation for adopting innovative technologies that improve the user’s experience with its products,” said Milos Djokovic, chief technical officer and chief operating officer, Zi Corporation.

“With Decuma, Nintendo DS users will experience natural handwriting recognition previously only available to PDA and smartphone users.”

Seasonal Significance

The agreement marks just one of a few recent moves Nintendo has made with its handheld game as we head into the holiday shopping season — one of the industry’s peaks in terms of unit sales.

Less than two weeks ago, Nintendo revealed unreleased games to the public at the DigitalLife Trade Show in New York City. The three-day event sought to educate consumers about the digital lifestyle while allowing them to play new games like Dr. Mario & Puzzle League.

The video game giant has also announced a strategic deal to bring WiFi connections to hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants. It’s clear Nintendo is pushing new technology into its DS gaming system.

Has Nintendo seen the writing on the wall as Sony PSP attempts to edge in on its handheld market share? Perhaps, say analysts, as evidenced in part by the video game maker’s latest technology initiative.

Feature-Rich Gaming

The Nintendo DS gaming platform does offer a competitive feature set, with touch-screen technology and dual LCD screens. The latter allows racing game users to see their own vehicle’s perspective on one screen and an overall track view on the other.

Presently, users can interact with the Nintendo DS by using standard control buttons, a microphone for voice recognition, or through the gaming system’s touch screen. Nintendo has not yet announced any new products featuring the handwriting recognition, but analysts said Zi’s software will allow Nintendo to offer yet another compelling draw.

“The DS is very feature-rich, but it takes time for the software to match the hardware specifications,” Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld. “So the DS has WiFi and it has touch-screen and dual screens. The challenge is to come to market with technology in a way that’s usable — not just as another feature.”

Hint, Hint

Gartenberg said he can think of a number of different applications that Nintendo might make possible with the Zi Corp.’s handwriting recognition technology, such as chat or productivity functions.

Indeed, on its Web site Nintendo has hinted about creating games that would allow users to play its titles on one screen while sending text messages on the other.

“The one thing Nintendo does know how to do is to make software that takes advantage of the hardware,” Gartenberg said. “The DS titles are somewhat unique in that they take advantage of secondary screen, the touch screen and the WiFi connection. It will be interesting to see what Nintendo might have planned for a device that integrates handwriting recognition.”

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