Nintendo is looking to add more to the DS racing interface with a steering wheel program that keys into the touch screen.
Nintendo has filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a DSi touch screen steering wheel. The program allows the steering of in-game vehicles by turning the wheel with the stylus instead of using the d-pad. The interface is much akin to the Wii's steering wheel in that it allows the player to play racing games as if they were actually driving, except that instead of a physical wheel, you're still steering with the rough equivalent a pencil or with a little needle attached to your finger.
The patent states: "The touch-sensitive functionality of the screen is used in at least some exemplary illustrative non-limiting implementations to allow the video game player to control the position of the steering wheel displayed on the screen. The displayed vehicle steering wheel position, in turn, is used to control the travel motion or direction of the vehicle being simulated. The resulting simulation provides a realistic input control interface obtainable using relatively inexpensive and compact input devices such as those available on conventional portable or other video game play and/or simulation platforms," which, in layman's terms means the intent is to make it more like driving a car using available DSi technology without it costing too much.
While the technology is certainly interesting, what it will do for immersive gameplay has yet to be seen. It's a fairly creative use of the DSi's touch screen, but it's hard to see this not ending up as a gimmick instead of a useful function. Then again, the ability to turn the wheel like a real car may give more traction to steering, and the DS has seen a number of successes with touch screen-based games in the past such as The World Ends With You and Elite Beat Agents, so there's the potential for this to work really well. We'll just have to wait and see.