&136/ Hands-on: Why Would I Need a Digital Picture Frame? Use a Wii and a Flat Panel TV Instead

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Image © Nintendo

After reading John Tierney's recent NYT article featuring a Don Norman giving up on a digital picture frame due to usability issues, I was wondering if an electronic frame could nevertheless be the perfect Christmas gift for our family? Who cares about usability for a picture frame? I figured myself starting a slideshow once in a while and that would be it ...

Standing in front of two shelves of frames in our local electronics store my first disappointment was: Those gadgets are astonishingly expensive; at least over here in Europe and for those models showing acceptable image quality.

Looking behind the screen, my second thought was: Don Norman is right!

"This is not the frame I designed," Dr. Norman muttered as he tried to navigate the menu on the screen. "It's bizarre. You have to look at the front while pushing buttons on the back that you can't see, but there's a long row of buttons that all feel the same. Are you expected to memorize them?"

My third thought was: The frame reminds me of something ... We have a Flat Panel TV in our living room - of a size exceeding the most expensive picture frames! As well as a Nintendo Wii right beside it connected to the TV via a cable and to the world via our WLAN router. I immediately headed home and learned 5 lessons in preparation of our Christmas Eve Wii slideshow:

Lesson 1: Do not try to display a flickr slideshow on your Wii! It just does not work. At least I could not figure out how. 3 pictures are fine but the rest is waiting. [The same holds true for watching YouTube videos, which is a pity as YouTube via Wii Internet Channel would be a viable alternative to our local TV stations.]

Lesson 2: The USB port at the back of the Wii might be used for an external keyboard with the December firmware upgrade but NOT to connect a card reader or a camera. In my opinion this would be a real killer compared to connecting your camera to the TV directly, because ...

Lesson 3: ... the built-in Wii Photo Channel is an amazing application (for a console). Playing images, movies and sound files in a perfect slideshow. [Side remark: If you want to play MP3, stick with the old version - only in case you prefer AAC, upgrade the Photo Channel to 1.1.] From Wikipedia: "The Wii will automatically add Ken Burns Effect transitions between the photos and play the music in the background. A built-in editor allows users to add markings and effects to their photos. Mosaics and puzzles can also be created with this feature. Edited photos can be saved to the Wii (the Wii will not overwrite data on the SD card) and sent to other Wiis via the message board."

Lesson 4: Ok, you have to buy an SD card for now - as long as the USB port is not supported with a card reader attached - but then the Wii works perfect as a picture frame replacement. Playing movies back- and forwards inside a slideshow with your favorite soundtrack in the background, playing puzzle during playback. The kids had fun :) Tip: Try the cross-shaped controller button on the Wiimote during movie playback.

Lesson 5: The Wii is more than a game console and hopefully there is a lot more software to come! If just the YouTube playback would not stop every 10 seconds, it might be a real competitor to our local TV channels. For now it is our 32-inch digital picture frame.

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