The American Power Glove, manufactured by Mattel
|Manufacturer||Mattel (United States)
|Type||Video game controller|
|Generation||Third generation era|
|Retail availability||1 year|
|Introductory price||US$75 (equivalent to $143.17 in 2015)|
The Power Glove is a controller accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Power Glove gained public attention due to its early virtual reality mechanics and being shown in various forms of media. However, its two games did not sell well, as it was not packaged with a game, and it was criticized for its imprecise and difficult-to-use controls.
The Power Glove was originally released in 1989. Though it was an officially licensed product, Nintendo was not involved in the design or release of this accessory. Rather, it was designed by Grant Goddard and Samuel Cooper Davis for Abrams/Gentile Entertainment (AGE), made by Mattel in the United States and PAX in Japan. Additional development was accomplished through the efforts of Thomas G. Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer responsible for codeveloping and commercializing the DataGlove who had made a failed attempt at a similar design for Nintendo earlier. Mattel brought in Image Design and Marketing's Hal Berger and Gary Yamron to develop the raw technology into a functional product. They designed Power Glove over the course of eight weeks. The Power Glove and DataGlove were based on Zimmerman's instrumented glove. Zimmerman built the first prototype that demonstrated finger flex measurement and hand position tracking using a pair of ultrasonic transmitters. His original prototype used optical flex sensors to measure finger bending which were replaced with less expensive carbon-based flex sensors by the AGE team.
Design and functionality
The glove has traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm as well as a program button and buttons labeled 0-9. The user presses the program button and a numbered button to input commands, such as changing the firing rate of the A and B buttons. Along with the controller, the player can perform various hand motions to control a character on-screen.
The Power Glove is based on the patented technology of the VPL Dataglove, but with many modifications that allow it to be used with modestly performing consumer hardware and sold at an affordable price. Whereas the Dataglove can detect yaw, pitch and roll, uses fiberoptic sensors to detect finger flexure, and has a resolution of 256 positions (8 bits) per finger for four fingers (the little finger is not measured to save money, and it usually follows the movement of the ring finger), the Power Glove can only detect roll, and uses sensors coated with conductive ink yielding a resolution of four positions (2 bits) per finger for four fingers. This allows the Power Glove to store all the finger flexure information in a single byte. However, it appears that the fingers actually feed an analog signal to the microprocessor on the Power Glove. The microprocessor converts the analog signal into two bits per finger.
There are two ultrasonic speakers (transmitters) in the glove and three ultrasonic microphones (receivers) around the TV monitor. The ultrasonic speakers take turns transmitting a short burst (a few pulses) of 40 kHz sound and the system measures the time it takes for the sound to reach the microphones. A triangulation calculation is performed to determine the X, Y, Z location of each of the two speakers, which specifies the yaw and roll of the hand. The only dimension it cannot calculate is the pitch of the hand, since the hand can pitch without moving the location of the two ultrasonic speakers.
Two games were released with specific features for use with the Power Glove: Super Glove Ball, a "3D" puzzle maze game; and Bad Street Brawler, a beat 'em up. Both games are playable with the standard NES controller, but include moves that can only be used with the glove. These two games are branded as part of the "Power Glove Gaming Series". Since no Power Glove-specific games ever retailed in Japan, the Power Glove was sold only as an alternative controller.
Two more games, Glove Pilot and Manipulator Glove Adventure, were announced but never released. Another unreleased game, Tech Town or Tektown, is a virtual puzzle solving game in which the player moved a robotic hand around a deserted space station type of setting, using the glove to open doors and to pick up and use tools. It can be seen in a sneak peek in the Official Power Glove Game Players Gametape.
Games without specific support can also be played with the glove by inputting codes on the glove's keypad that set a control scheme for the glove.
Approximately 100,000 units of the Power Glove were sold in the U.S. The two games that were especially made for the Power Glove sold poorly and the Power Glove itself was a critical and commercial failure.
In popular culture
The Power Glove is prominently shown off in the Nintendo-produced film The Wizard, wielded by antagonist Lucas Barton (Jackey Vinson), whose smug boast, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad," became an Internet meme years later.
In the sixth A Nightmare on Elm Street film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Freddy Krueger tries to kill Spencer using an NES, but when the controller got unplugged, Freddy uses his version of the Power Glove as a Thelacement, saying "You forgot the Power Glove!" Freddy also shouts "Now I'm playing with power!", a play on Nintendo's tagline "Now you're playing with power!"
James Rolfe, as the Angry Video Game Nerd, sometimes uses the Power Glove, together with other NES accessories, as a weapon against video game monsters. Additionally episode 14 features a full review of the Power Glove.
Manny Spamboni, a villainous character in the 2009 reboot of the PBS series The Electric Company can be seen wearing the Power Glove as part of his costume. However, the glove is merely a prop and not used to control Nintendo games.
The Regular Show episode "Video Game Wizards" has a parody of the Power Glove called the "Maximum Glove".
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