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Power Glove

The Power Glove is a motion gesture controller accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System that was manufactured and distributed by Mattel in 1989. It was the first virtual reality technology that was commercialised and released as a consumer product.

The origins of the Power Glove can be traced back to 1987 when Christopher Gentile of AGE had the idea to involve virtual reality in video games. He wanted to create a playable environment that could be controlled via motion gestures and contacted VPL about using their Data Glove as a proof of concept. The executives at VPL where intrigued by the concept of using their Data Glove in video games and allowed AGE to use their product and provide him with development software to carry out this project.

The optical flex sensor glove was conceived by Thomas Zimmerman in 1981 and patented by him in 1982. While refining his vision for the Data Glove, Zimmerman met Jaron Lanier who was working on a visual programming language. The two seen great potential in combining their inventions realizing that the glove could perform gestures which could be identified by the visual programming language to preform virtual reality type task. Zimmerman and Lanier formed the company VPL Research which was the first company to focus on the study and development of virtual reality systems.

ManufacturerMattel (North America)
PAX (Japan)
PlatformNintendo Entertainment System
Family Computer
Hardware TypeController
Release DateOctober 1989
Sales1.3 Million Units
654,000 units sold in its first 6 weeks
# of Compatible Games54

NASA using the Data GloveVPL’s initial creation was known as the Z-Glove which evolved over time to use fiber optic cables to measure the movement of the hand opposed to the original optical flex sensors. These fibers were connected to a receiver which captured all the movements and reflected the movement on screen through programming. This new iteration of the product was called the “Data Glove” and caught the attention of large companies and organizations. One of which was NASA, who used the Data Glove in simulators and to control robots remotely in real time.

Christopher Gentile invented and demonstrated, the Air Band which utilized the VPL Data Glove as a proof of concept on how the glove could be utilized. Gentile continued to experiment with the glove and used a Macintosh to design a program that allowed him to control Nintendo Entertainment System games with the Data Glove. He selected two of the most popular games at the time for his experiment, Super Mario Bros and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Gentile looking for a manufacture and distributor to partner with contacted Mattel to present his prototype. Mattel was hesitant as they had entered the video game industry in 1979 with the release of the Intellivision and due to the video game crash of 1983 lost millions of dollars and made the decision to exit the video game business. However, the prototype drew the attention of Jill Barad, Vice President of Development and Marketing, who was extremely impressed with the product after trying it with Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Mattel made a deal to partner with AGE however the accessory needed to be completely redesigned from the ground up as the production cost of the “Data Glove” was $9,000, it was imperative that they drastically lower the production cost to be able to commercialize the product. The fiber optics were replaced with sensors that used semiconductor ink for the detection of finger movement and the magnetic sensors that calculated the position of the hand were removed in favor for the much more cost-efficient speakers and microphone to enable an “Ultrasonic Tracking” system. After five months they were able to create a final product at the cost of $23.

Branded the Power Glove, the accessory gained public attention due to its early virtual reality mechanics and significant marketing campaign. The final product had traditional Nintendo Entertainment System controller buttons on the forearm as well as a program button and buttons labeled 0 through 9. Players would press the program button and a numbered button to input commands to inform the program how the motion gestures should be interpreted.

The Power Glove came with a program guide that listed codes for 54 games that could be used with the peripheral. Two games were released specifically for use with the Power Glove, Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. These games were branded as part of the “Power Glove Gaming Series” and did not require players to enter a program code to inform the accessory how to interpret the motion gestures as the games were specifically designed for the accessory it automatically knew how to handle the motion control.

Released in October 1989 for $89 the Power Glove was the hot must have Christmas item for the year. The new accessory was featured and promoted in the 1989 movie “The Wizard”. Rad Racer was the ideal game for use with the new accessory and was used in the movie to demonstrate the Power Glove. Mattel sold 654,000 units in the first 6 weeks of its release. The success was quick but short lived as the accessory was criticized for its imprecise and difficult to use controls. The product was discontinued in 1990 after selling approximately 1.3 million units worldwide.

Gaming Historian - The story of the Power Glove


The Gaming Historian

The Gaming Historian is a documentary series all about the history of video games.  The show is researched, written, edited, and created by Norman Caruso.

DateBoxTitleDeveloperPublisherGenreAdditional Details
19881943 - The Battle of Midway Box1943: The Battle of MidwayCapcomCapcomScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #5
1987Alpha Mission BoxAlpha MissionSNKSNKScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #5
1988Anticipation BoxAnticipationRareNintendoPartyPower Glove Program #14
1989Bad Street Brawler BoxBad Street BrawlerBeam SoftwareMattelBeat 'em upNo Program Selection Required
1985Baseball BoxBaseballNintendo R&D1NintendoSports
Power Glove Program #8
1988Bases Loaded BoxBases LoadedToseJalecoSports
Power Glove Program #8
1988Blades of Steel BoxBlades of SteelKonamiKonamiSports
Power Glove Program #1
1988Blaster Master BoxBlaster MasterTokai EngineeringSunsoftPlatformer
Run and Gun
Power Glove Program #1
1988Bubble Bobble BoxBubble BobbleTaitoTaitoActionPower Glove Program #1
1987Castlevania BoxCastlevaniaKonamiKonamiAction
Power Glove Program #1
1988Castlevania Simon's Quest BoxCastlevania II: Simon's QuestKonamiKonamiAdventure
Power Glove Program #1
1988Contra BoxContraKonamiKonamiRun and GunPower Glove Program #1
1987Deadly Towers BoxDeadly TowersLenarBrøderbund SoftwareActionPower Glove Program #1
1988Defender II BoxDefender IIVid KidzHAL LabortoryScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #E
1986NES BoxDonkey KongNintendo R&D1
Nintendo R&D2
NintendoPlatformerPower Glove Program #1
1986Donkey Kong Jr BoxDonkey Kong Jr.Nintendo R&D1
Nintendo R&D2
NintendoPlatformerPower Glove Program #1
1988Donkey Kong Classics BoxDonkey Kong ClassicsNintendo R&D1
Nintendo R&D2
NintendoPlatformerPower Glove Program #1
1988Double Dragon BoxDouble DragonTechnos JapanTradewestBeat 'em upPower Glove Program #6
1987Double Dribble BoxDouble DribbleKonamiKonamiSports
Power Glove Program #1
1988Gauntlet BoxGauntletTengenTengenActionPower Glove Program #3
1986Gradius BoxGradiusKonamiKonamiScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #1
1988Gun Smoke BoxGun SmokeCapcomCapcomActionPower Glove Program #G
1989Gyruss BoxGyrussKonamiUltra GamesFixed ShooterPower Glove Program #C
1988Ice Hockey BoxIce HockeyNintendo EAD
Pax Softnica
Power Glove Program #3
1988Iron Tank BoxIron Tank: The Invasion of NormandySNKSNKShooterPower Glove Program #4
1988Jackal BoxJackalKonamiKonamiRun and GunPower Glove Program #1
1988Joust BoxJoustWilliams ElectronicsHAL LabortoryActionPower Glove Program #B
1987Kid Icarus BoxKid IcarusNintendo R&D1
Power Glove Program #1
1988Knight Rider BoxKnight RiderPack-In-VideoAcclaim EntertainmentRacingPower Glove Program #I
1989Kung Fu HeroesKung Fu HeroesNihon GameCulture BrainAction
Beat 'em up
Power Glove Program #1
1988Life Force BoxLife ForceKonamiKonamiScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #5
1988Metal Gear BoxMetal GearKonamiUltra GamesActionPower Glove Program #1
1987MetroidNintendo R&D1
Intelligent Systems
NintendoAction-AdventurePower Glove Program #1
1988Mickey Mousecapade BoxMickey MousecapadeHudson SoftCapcomPlatformerPower Glove Program #1
1987Mike Tyson's Punch-Out BoxMike Tyson's Punch-Out!!Nintendo R&D3NintendoSports
Power Glove Program #7
1989Operation Wolf NES BoxOperation WolfTaitoTaitoActionPower Glove Program #1
1988Platoon BoxPlatoonOcean SoftwareSunsoftShoot 'em upPower Glove Program #1
1987Rad Racer BoxRad RacerSquareNintendo (NA)
Square (JP)
Mattel (EU)
RacingPower Glove Program #9
1988Racket Attack BoxRacket AttackToseJalecoSports
Power Glove Program #1
1988Rampage BoxRampageBally MidwayData EastActionPower Glove Program #1
1986RBI BaseballR.B.I. BaseballNamcoNamcoSports
Power Glove Program #8
1988RC Pro AM BoxR.C. Pro-AmRareNintendoRacingPower Glove Program #10
1988Robo Warrior BoxRobo WarriorHudson Soft
Power Glove Program #1
1987Rygar BoxRygarTecmoTecmoAction-AdventurePower Glove Program #1
1988Seicross BoxSeicrossNichibutsuNichibutsuShoot 'em upPower Glove Program #1
1989Sesame Street 123 BoxSesame Street 1-2-3Zippo GamesHi-Tech ExpressionsEducationalPower Glove Program #F
1987Star Force BoxStar ForceTehkanTecmoScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #1
1985Super Mario Bros BoxSuper Mario Bros.Nintendo R&D4NintendoPlatformerPower Glove Program #12
1990Super Glove Ball BoxSuper Glove BallRareMattelActionNo Program Selection Required
1988Superman BoxSupermanKotobuki SystemKemcoAction-AdventurePower Glove Program #1
1987Top Gun BoxTop GunKonamiKonamiShoot 'em upPower Glove Program #3
1988Xenophobe BoxXenophobeBally MidwaySunsoftShooterPower Glove Program #1
1988Xevious BoxXeviousBandaiNamcoScrolling ShooterPower Glove Program #5
1988Zelda II - The Adventures of Link BoxZelda II: The Adventure of LinkNintendo R&D4NintendoAction-Adventure
Power Glove Program #1

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