A hamster in a ball controls an iRobot Create; the Create is a hobbyist robot based on the Roomba platform. Take a look at the hamster ball robotic vehicle video:
(Hamster-controlled iRobot Create vehicle video)
The hamster controls the movement of the Create robotic vehicle by running in whichever direction he wants. The ball is loose on three rollers; an optical sensor measures the direction of the hamster ball and how fast it is moving. The microprocessor that controls the movement of the Create robot then moves the wheels according to the motion of the hamster ball.
As far as science-fictional predecessors are concerned, sf readers may recall the Martian perambulators used in Robert Heinlein's 1951 novel Between Planets to help Martians get around on Earth.
At the ringside opposite them a table had been removed to make room for a large transparent plastic capsule on wheels. Don had never seen one but he recognized its function; it was a Martian's "perambulator," a portable air-conditioning unit to provide the rare, cold air necessary to a Martian aborigine. The occupant could be seen dimly, his frail body supported by a metal articulated servo framework to assist him in coping with the robust gravity of the third planet.
Gamers may recall the Orz from Star Control 2; this race of aliens used an anthropomorphic exoskeleton to get around in when on land (thanks, Yossi).
I can think of another example, but I can't find it on my site. Ocean-going aliens are helped by human beings with vehicles that help them get about and also help them to think and build things. Readers?
**Aha! Take a look at the skrodes from Vernor Vinge's 1992 novel A Fire Upon the Deep.**