Are you the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii? You might think that it’s not quite the multi-talented digital hub that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are.
But, believe it or not, there’s much more to the Nintendo Wii than playing Wii Sports (and potentially injuring a family member with an over-exuberant tennis swing).
Here's our list of eight things you might not know your Wii could do.
1. Charge your iPod
At the back of your Wii there are two USB ports. Although Nintendo hasn’t really taken advantage of them yet (one game - Boogie - uses it to plug in a microphone), that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of them. Simply connect your iPod to its USB charging cable and plug it into one of the USB ports and hey presto, you can charge it up while you play Super Mario Galaxy.
2. Plug in a keyboard to type emails
If you got your Wii early, you’ll have had the chance to download the Opera web browser from the Wii Shop Channel for free. If not, it’ll now set you back 500 Wii Points. While the browser is a great addition, using the Wii Remote to type in URLs or write emails can be a bit time consuming. Usefully, those two USB ports can come into play again: simply plug in a USB keyboard and you can type away on Hotmail or Google Mail to your heart’s content.
3. Make video jigsaws
As you may already know, the Wii Photo Channel lets you take photos from a digital camera’s SD card and draw on them or turn them into jigsaws. However, if your digital camera can take short videos in the .avi format, then the Wii can also play back those. You can even make looping video jigsaws with them. Try solving a jigsaw where the image on all the pieces is constantly changing!
4. Watch YouTube videos (and the BBC's iPlayer)
The Wii’s Opera browser has Flash built in. Unfortunately, it’s an out-of-date version of Flash (version 7, to be exact). This means that more recent Flash-based sites, won’t work on the Wii. Two sites that still work like a charm, however, are YouTube and (most recently) the BBC's iPlayer.
5. Stream music and video from a PC
Orb is a free service which allows you to stream your PC multimedia (video, music, podcasts and pictures) to any web-connected device. As luck would have it, this also includes the Wii. Install the software on your computer, set it all up and then log on to your personal Orb web page via the Wii’s Opera browser. From here you can stream all sorts of content – DivX files, MP3s, JPEGs, etc. Orb's technology automatically determines the best format, codec, bit rate, display capabilities and network bandwidth for the Wii.
6. Use the Wii remote to control iTunes
You may already know this, but the Wii Remote communicates wirelessly with the Wii using Bluetooth. Taking advantage of this fact, some clever tyke has created a program called BlueTunes, which works with any Bluetooth-enabled PC and lets you use your Wii Remote to control your PC’s media player. All you need to do is sync your Wii Remote to the PC using the program, and that’s it. You can now use your Wii Remote as a remote control for the likes of iTunes, Windows Media Player and Winamp.
7. Play Flash games online
One final Opera browser trick... Naturally, since the browser has Flash capabilities, this means you can play a lot of online Flash games. However, many of these won’t work since they require you to use a keyboard: only the mouse-based games will work. That’s where WiiCade comes into play. This site contains a large collection of the web’s best Flash games that are both mouse-only (and therefore work well with the Wii) and work with the older version of Flash that the Wii’s Opera browser uses.
8. Treat your mates to some retro gaming
You’re probably already aware that the Wii Shop Channel lets you access the Virtual Console service, which in turn lets you buy and download some of the best NES, SNES, N64, Mega Drive, TurboGrafx and Neo-Geo games in gaming history. Think of it as a sort of retro gaming iTunes.
However, you may not know that Nintendo recently added a 'Gift' option to the store, meaning that when you go to buy a game you can instead choose to send it to someone in your Wii Address Book (assuming you’ve already traded Friend Codes with them). What better way to say “Happy Birthday” to a friend than treating them to a free download of Super Mario Bros 3?