Boy, the Game Boy has come a long way. When Nintendo released the first model 20 years ago, it was a sensation. Over the years, the device has been changed, upgraded and improved. Even the names morphed in that time -- names like Game Boy Advance, DS, Game Boy Micro and DS Lite.

Nobody, not even Sony ( SNE) or Microsoft ( MSFT), has been able to match Nintendo's portable-device success.

First Look: Nintendo DSi

Now there's a shiny new model called the DSi. The changes in this new design are more revolutionary than they are evolutionary. Without even inserting a game card, there are hours and hours of new goodies inside that can keep young and old captivated. I was privy to a sneak preview earlier this week, and I've got to tell you, this new DSi is very cool.

If you're familiar with using a DS, then mastering the DSi will be a cinch. Among the changes are three new major features: the camera system, sound system and the app store.

The most noticeable feature is the two-camera system: One camera is on the outside and the other on the inside pointing at the user when the device is open. Nintendo doesn't just put cameras on the device and say, "Go talk to someone else."

The company created an interactive video game with 10 different special "lenses" to manipulate the photos you take with the two cameras. There is software that offers an easy way to take and share your photos.

The cameras present users with interesting ways to interact with their games while giving developers a new tool to devise creative games and experiences. I tried one such new game (details to come soon) that incorporates the cameras and your motions to create an amazing experience.

Nintendo is very proud (and rightly so) of this new camera system, so much so that it's boasting: "If the touch screen gave Nintendo DS a sense of feel and the microphone allowed it to hear, the two cameras give Nintendo DSi the sense of sight."

The second enhanced feature is called Nintendo DSi Sound. It's an application that serves as an interactive voice recorder and music player. It allows users to actually play around with their music while they listen to it. You can access different audio filters and also control the pitch and speed of recorded voice or music files to alter voices or change the tempo. The microphone is located between the two screens when the DSi is open. There is also a stereo headphone jack that lets users listen to music saved on an internal SD card, even with the screen shut.

Finally, the built-in Nintendo DSiWare application allows users to purchase and download from the new app store. Software titles can be downloaded (with a payment system involving Nintendo DSi Points similar to Nintendo's WiiWare system for the Wii) directly to the DSi. Developers are being invited to create new titles that take full advantage of the portable's new features.

In addition to downloadable games, Nintendo DSi is able to play games made specifically for the system that will be sold at retail and online stores. The system can also play most Nintendo DS games and will have access to a library of more than 850 titles.

Nintendo will be selling its portable DSi device for $169.99 beginning April 5. As that date approaches, it'll also be announcing a slew of new software titles and additional features.
Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.

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