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VR Interfaces: Power Glove
|Originally created in 1989, by Nintendo, the Power Glove is at once a symbol of
mainstream VR, and a source of derision and ridicule. It is a humiliating failure,
that lingers in the minds of many. Even 20 years later, many use the power glove
and its ilk to mock the field of VR.
It was intended as a true dataglove, the first of its kind. An interface designed
to recreate the human hand and all the finger movements, in real-time in a VR
environment. In addition it had a full gamepad and a numerical keyboard on the
wrist of the device, intended for operations by the other hand. This is where
the problems started. Yes, in theory it worked well, however that theory did
not take into account that the hand wearing the power glove was going to be
jerking around to control the VR. This meant that the gamepad on its wrist was
also going to be jerking around, making the controls all but impossible to use.
Another problem was the insensitivity of the finger sensors. In the original
prototype dataglove on which the power glove was based, finger flexing and movement
was determined by a pair of ultrasonic transmitters at either side of the hand,
whilst optical flex sensors were laced down each finger, detecting the amount
of bending at the joint. This worked well, but was expensive to produce. So,
Nintendo replaced every sensor on the glove with a cheaper to produce carbon
flex sensor. It was cheaper, and far less accurate, making the glove somewhat
unresponsive. You had to caricature movements to get the desired result.
Because the ultrasonic transmitters were also removed, precise positioning of
the glove was impossible. With them in place, a dataglove can detect yaw, pitch
and roll. Without them, roll can only be measured by the twisting of the hand
itself and how it compresses cheap carbon flex sensors on the back of the hand.
This again, lead to the unresponsiveness of the Power Glove.
Thankfully the first Data Glove, which was produced at the same time, went with
optical flex sensors instead. So, whilst the Power Glove died loudly, datagloves
continued to thrive as more expensive simulation interfaces in the background.
The only upside of the Power Glove really is that it formed the base technology
for what would later become the Wii remote control. That is after technology had
advanced significantly, and there were superior methods to carbon flex sensors,