Wii Street U is available to download right now from the Wii U eShop. The expansive application allows you to explore the world through 3D environments made up of thousands upon thousands of photographs taken by Google.
It's based on Google Maps' Street View, though it doesn't include any additional features such as directions and it won't tell you how long it will take you to walk between New York City and Johannesburg. This version is designed for the living room explorer, armed with refreshments and a GamePad.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently sat down with the brains behind Wii Street U for another instalment of Iwata Asks.
Interestingly, Shinya Takahashi from Nintendo's software planning and development division said that at the planning stage of the project, people seemed to be uninterested in hearing what the developers had to say about it. However once they got hold of it, they began to see what all the fuss was about. Google's Kei Kawai observed:
At Google, we have a saying: One demo is worth a hundred explanations.
The development team spoke about how they'd enjoyed a relatively speedy development process compared to that of typical video games. This was because they had access to the wealth of photographs and geographical data already there for them, sat inside Google's enormous photo album.
The team went all-out to provide an immersive experience on Wii U, even mapping out the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where you can see a space shuttle sitting in the hangar. If you get close enough, you can even see the individual tiles of the iconic spacecraft.
You would think places such as NASA and the White House would object to a bunch of Googlers with cameras wandering around the premises, but the team received the opposite reaction. The White House, for example, holds many tours around the building, but only a limited amount of people can go on them. Using Wii Street U you can explore the White House from the comfort of your living room, meaning more people can experience the tour.
The attention to detail doesn't stop there, as the team decided to map the sky as well. Kawai revealed that looking up at the sky is something everyone has wanted to do, and that the GamePad allows the user to look at it much more easily thanks to the gyroscope.
It seems that everyone has a subconscious desire to look up at the sky. So when we updated the equipment, we have been working on ways of improving things like the camera angles so the sky is better photographed.
Naturally, Kawai has a certain love for Street View, but Wii U seems to have broadened his mind to how people can use and enjoy the service:
The best thing about looking through the Wii U is that you can relax in your living room and do it at your leisure. I'm incredibly pleased that something we made for practical purposes can now be enjoyed in this way. I just bought a Wii U, so I can't wait to get home and try this!
When Kawai is working on updated versions of Street View, he always has in his mind how he wants to help the user in the same way a typical map should, but with Wii U he's found a new reason to use the service.
I always thought Street View was a tool to prevent you from getting lost! But this makes you say, "With this, getting lost is fun!"
This led the group to draw up some similarities between Nintendo and Google. Both companies appear to enjoy their work: creating cool and inspiring services for people to enjoy. Kawai revealed that he and everyone else at Google is constantly feeling a sense of crisis as they attempt to stay ahead of the competition and continue to provide a compelling service people will want to return to.
If you don't use Google Maps, there have always been convenient paper maps, and there are a plethora of alternative media. We have to get people to compare us with those various alternatives and return to us, so I think we're the same in that way. We think, "I wonder if we can improve that," test something, toss it out, and repeat that cycle.
Iwata confirmed that Nintendo certainly felt the same way, as it endeavours to create more intuitive experiences for its users. Nintendo's president finished off the interview by saying:
One dream that everyone has is to go to many places. But that requires time, effort and money, so many people can't do that. But I feel like Wii Street U may be able to fulfill that dream as a new tool for experiencing a sensation as if you're right there.
Check out our Wii Street U review to find out what we thought of the application.
Are you enjoying exploring the planet Earth with Wii Street U? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.