Welcome to Wiidiaplayer

August 5, 2007

The idea for Wiidiaplayer started some time ago when I was looking through some mailinglists, and discovered that people had been thinking about creating a mediaplayer for the Wii for some time now (actually, only after I started working on the project, I decided to look around at what other people had done; at which point I realised that starting from scratch might not have been the best idea). Anyway, the Wiidiaplayer idea had took off by then, and I decided it would be a nice idea to see how far it would fly (both in technical and motivational sense).

Motivation

Most computer users have a considerable amount of audio and video files on their harddrives. In addition, these computers regularly stay switched on 24/7, are connected to some sort of internal home-network, and are, generally speaking, not the best media to enjoy your music and movies through. Either the screen is too small, the speakers are too cheap, the couch is in the wrong place, or the computer is in a different room altogether. What is connected to the right speakers, screen and location is the Wii. In addition, the Wii controller is ideal as a remote control for a media console, and there we are. I wanted to sit in front of my TV, select music and video’s from my computer’s harddrive, and play them.

Challenges

Now, there are a couple of problems with using the Wii as mediaplayer, some can be overcome, others not. Firstly, the Wii is a closed system, and the ability to have arbitrary software run on it is, without resorting to hardware or software hacks that the multitude of Wii owners will be unable or unwilling to perform, is limited. The only programmable aspect that was meant to be there, is the Opera browser, with flash 7 (this is still way better than the iPhone, who has only html and no flash). Secondly, the Wii will only do standard stereo (2 channel) sound, over analogue connectors and, if like me you use the Wii-Scart cable, all sound passes though your tv (and the TV has to be switched on, not the most energy-friendly or romantic way of putting on some background music). Thirdly, the maximum resolution that the Wii will display is not that high (I’m not sure what it is, but not more than standard PAL). However, this isn’t a problem because of the next issue: the CPU/GPU combination is not fast enough by far to display full screen high resolution high bandwidth video, the best I’m getting right now is 320×240@15fps@2500kbps. Still, I have been watching video’s on this format for about 2 months now, and neither the jokes in the Simpsons, nor the suspense in Prison break is any less on that resolution. And then, finally, there is the problem of memory. Depending on how you count, the Wii has between 80 and 150 MB of RAM. This means that a feature-length movie, even at the lowered resolution, will never fit into it;

Requirements

Obviously, the requirements needed to be a little flexible, at least on the part of what quality they would deliver. However, some basic requirements could be put down easily. The whole application should be controllable though the Wiimote or any other pointing-device. It should also not be specific to the Wii, it should at least run on 1 crossplatform browser. It should be able to play my full media library (ogg/mp3 for sound, and about every possibly imaginable video format, the longest of which runs over 3 hours), and do so without any pre-processing. After selecting any file, it should start playing within seconds.

The Wiidiaplayer so far

This video was taken some time ago, since then a lot changed on the technical side, and some on the visual side. However I also introduced some quick and dirty UI elements, so the current version looks real amateurish. I will post a new video after I clean up the interface.