To many of us who grew up in the 1980s, the Nintendo Power Glove was our first real heartbreak. We fell in love with the marketing of a glove that would allow us to reach out and touch our video games, and we were devastated when we learned the ultrasonic positioning system didn’t work so well, making it more of an NES controller that was stuck on your wrist than our first grasp of virtual reality.
But 26 years later Dillon Markey, a stop-motion animator for Robot Chicken and PES, has returned to the device. In fact, the Power Glove fuels his livelihood, as it has become his primary method to take photographs, review his frames, and stage the models for his next shot.
As he tells the story in the video above, Markey had been carrying around a wireless keyboard to control his careful workflow of making frame-by-frame animations. He realized how much easier it would be to have that keyboard live on his wrist. And by modifying the Power Glove hardware to work via Bluetooth protocols, he built his dream remote out of childhood nostalgia.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the glove works so well in practice–after all, Nintendo’s controllers were all designed to be used without looking at them–but it’s, for lack of a better term, trippy to watch Markey operate the glove with a mindless sincerity in his work. Using the D-Pad, Markey can preview a frame forward or back. By pressing the large “center” button, he can play through what he’s recorded. And by tapping A or B, he can snap one or two new frames with his camera. He’s also fitted the glove with a retractable set of tweezers, which he pulls out to make model adjustments, and then snap back with into position with the help of a drawstring and magnets he added to the glove. Markey, like gamers of the 1980s, doesn’t attempt to use the glove’s positional tracking technology in his work.
You could say this Nintendo Power Glove is just a clever hack that could be duplicated by taping a keyboard to your wrist. But viewed from a different perspective, Markey is a living case study for wearable technology, proving that if it can offer the user both utility and a meaningful mode of self-expression, the technology strapped onto our bodies can weave its way into our everyday work.