One of the surprises at the recent Nintendo press event was the Wii U’s integration with the TiVo digital video recorder. The TiVo integration was part of TVii, the Wii U’s second screen app for discovering and engaging with TV programs, movies and sports.
How exactly does the new Wii U integrate with the TiVo digital video recorder? Nintendo supplied Tech of the Hub with this quote:
“As far as playback, the GamePad begins playback on the TiVo through IP integration, so it’s working as a remote. The video stream does not pass through the Wii U.”
Sorry folks, the Wii U will not function as a TiVo extender in the same way that the upcoming TiVo Mini (or IP-STB) will. To watch content on the TiVo, it will have to be hooked up to the same TV as the Wii U. The Wii U GamePad will utilize its on-board IR blasters to change the input of the TV when you want to watch content from the TiVo DVR (or live TV). An IP-based message will tell the TiVo to start playing the particular piece of content. There was some speculation that the Wii U may utilize the recently released TiVo Stream box (our review) that lets you stream or download programs from the TiVo Premiere to your iPad or iPhone.
TVii provides a program guide and discovery across TV listings, your recorded DVR content as well as the catalogs of Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus. From within the Wii U guide, you can also set up recordings and season passes. To do this, the Wii U probably works in a fashion similar to the TiVo iPad / iPhone / Android apps by communicating over TCP/IP.
It’s still unclear if the Wii U will work with earlier TiVo models such as the Series3. Since the Series3 can be controlled by an IP-based remote, it’s a possibility.
The part of TVii I was impressed with was how it handles engagement with content. There have been other attempts to bring services such as Twitter to the TV but they’ve made poor use of screen real estate. Nintendo cleverly is leverging the GamePad to interact with on-screen content (it’s limited to live TV and the TiVo for now and does not work with the video streaming services). I also like how Miis are used to share program favorites. The profile functionality hints at some potential for good parental controls.
To finish up, while there are limits to the integration between the Wii U and TiVo, it does provide an interesting way to find and interact with TV shows and movies. However, if you’re not interested in playing video games, you’re probably better off just buying a TiVo Premiere and an iPad.