Watch: The Nintendo Power Glove Transformed Into an Animation Tool

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January 15, 2015

“I love the Power Glove ... it's so bad.” Words from the 1989 movie The Wizard that instantly made every kid of that era know what he wanted for Christmas.

The Power Glove debuted in 1989 as an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In principle it was pretty revolutionary and ahead of it's time — slip on the glove and control video games just by moving your hand. In practice the thing didn't really work all that well (if at all). This was the 8-bit era, a time before Bluetooth, and the Power Glove's ultrasonic motion sensors didn't really cut it. It was “bad” alright, just not bad in the cool way. Most kids gave up on it and ended up using the Glove's built-in control pad, which gave the same effect as if you'd just taped a regular NES controller around your forearm.

The Power Glove was a complete commercial and critical failure for Nintendo, but the concept paved the way for the type of wireless, motion tracking technology that is standard in Nintendo's Wii game console and other game systems today such as Xbox's Kinect.

But the Power Glove never really went away. Groups of enthusiasts have found ways to hack and modify the device in all sorts of creative ways.

When Dillion Markey, an animator for the stop-motion sketch show Robot Chicken, needed a more convenient way of controlling his camera and computer setup he fell on the Power Glove as a solution. With a new circuit board and Bluetooth functionality added in the Power Glove became just what he wanted.

The short documentary below by filmmaker Ava Benjamin shows how Markey was able to reengineer an old piece of '80s tech nostalgia into a tool for professional animation.

Playing with Power from Ava Benjamin on Vimeo.

And for those curious about the results -- here's an animation Markey created with his Power Glove setup.

Design engineers and professionals, the West Coast’s most important design, innovation, and manufacturing event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, is taking place in Anaheim, Feb. 10-12, 2015. A Design News event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on access to the latest technologies, be informed from a world-class conference program, and expand your network. (You might even meet a Design News editor.) Learn more about Pacific Design & Manufacturing here.

Chris Wiltz is the Managing Editor of Design News.

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