Who remembers Nintendo R.O.B (The Robotic Operating Buddy)? an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1984 in Japan as the "Famicom Robot" and in 1985 as R.O.B in North America.
The R.O.B. functions by receiving commands via optical flashes from a television screen. With the head pointed always at the screen, the arms move left, right, up, and down, and the hands pinch together and separate to manipulate objects on fixtures attached to the base. Gamers without experience might wonder how R.O.B. relays data back to the NES, and in fact there is no direct way to do so. In Gyromite, one of R.O.B.'s base attachments holds and pushes buttons on an ordinary controller. In Stack-Up the player is supposed to press a button on his or her own controller to indicate when R.O.B. completes a task. While the Robot Series games were among the most complex of its time, they were reliant upon the honor system.
An interesting video here.
Why do I blog this? even though it was not a commercial success, the ideas developed by Nintendo are quite innovative, this buddy-metaphor is interesting and there are curious connections with tangible interfaces.