“I love the Power Glove … it’s so bad.”
So said the evil villain Lucas in the 1989 video game movie The Wizard. The new Nintendo peripheral was prominently featured in the film, but it may have been a few decades ahead of its time. The 8-bit processors of the early consoles were ill-equipped to handle the rigors of virtual reality (VR), and the Power Glove never caught on because it was clumsy, difficult to use, and worked with very few games.
Now the wizards at Teague Labs have breathed new life into this arcane bit of video game trivia by designing a true Power Glove VR controller. With Power Gloves readily available on the secondhand market, the team set about realizing the dream of this often-mocked accessory.
They mounted an Arduino Due and a Vive tracker on the glove where the buttons would normally go, added a custom shield, and interfaced it with the tracker to make it compatible with the HTC Vive VR system. It created a more natural interaction than the conventional controller. “Holding virtual objects, touching mock-up screens, and pointing at things just feels a lot better when using the dexterity of one’s fingers instead of trying to use a fixed wand,” the engineers explained on their site.
They also got better results with the Power Glove than the Vive controller for on-screen touch interactions. “With the Power Glove and a second tracker mounted to the backside of an acrylic iPad, we were able to simulate more natural interactions with an iPad in VR,” they noted. “The overall experience improves dramatically when using the glove. The acrylic iPad even provides the same haptic feedback as a tablet would.”
If you’re interested in a more technical explanation (or you’d like to build one of your own), all of their files are available for download at GitHub.
In the first application Teague created for their do-it-yourself peripheral, you can shoot lightning by making a fist. Then they made a prototype “game” where you fought off incoming waves of rocks, paper, and scissors. “The game is still in an early stage, but it’s already a lot of fun to play!” they said.
As the advertising tagline for the Power Glove put it, “Everything else is child’s play.”