Microsoft Adaptive Controller ensures anyone can be a gamer

You might think that video gaming would be one of the hobbies most suited for those with physical disabilities. Unfortunately, that's not really the case. Operating a modern game controller requires a degree of manual dexterity that ranges between “high” and “ludicrous.” For those with limited ability to manipulate the densely-packed bits and bobs on a game controller, Microsoft is stepping forward with a solution: the highly-configurable and expandable Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Over on the left of the controller you have a directional pad, Xbox, view, and menu buttons. The two large black pads are the controller's A and B buttons. USB Type-A ports on either side of the Adaptive Controller take analog joystick inputs. Finally, along the top edge of the controller you have a row of 3.5-mm ports for plugging in additional assistive switches to emulate the rest of an Xbox One controller's functions.

The controller has both a DC input and a battery, and players can use it wirelessly through Bluetooth or RF. Every button and port can be remapped, and users can save up to three profiles. There's also a feature called Copilot that allows users to pair a standard controller to the same player slot to make up for otherwise-missing inputs when required. 

By creating such a configurable input device, Microsoft hopes to open up the world of electronic gaming to people who could never play with a regular controller. Don't be fooled by the Xbox name—this controller works in Windows as well. Whether on a PC or on an Xbox, users can load up the Xbox Accessories app to configure connected devices.

TR shortbread maestro Colton Westrate notes that his older daughter (who struggles with limited personal mobility) uses a similar device with her elbows to make choices at school. He remarks that he's eager to see if the skills she's learned at school can translate into working with this device. While this type of device may not be entirely new, this is probably the first time a big name has created a unit that's this versatile. Microsoft says it developed the controller in cooperation with a number of charities and advocacy organizations, including the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, and Warfighter Engaged.

It's easy for a normally-abled person to be cynical about technologies like this, but everyone benefits from this kind of research. Certainly Microsoft should be lauded for creating a standardized platform to accommodate potential gamers who would otherwise be left out of the party. The customized controllers that exist today are usually extremely expensive and sometimes require awkward hacks to work in games and applications. In contrast, the Adaptive Controller will go for just $100 through the Microsoft Store when it launches later this year.

Comments closed
    • Horshu
    • 2 years ago

    It looks like you could build a new Steel Battalion controller with it.

    • Kharnellius
    • 2 years ago

    [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R6MtJmzcBI[/url<] (Just the first 8 seconds)

    • Phreon70
    • 2 years ago

    I am really interested in learning more about this.
    I am suffering from multiple sclerosis. It has affected my right hand where I don’t have complete feeling in it.
    Being right handed it has made using a mouse challenging. I purchased a Razer Mamba that has adjustable mouse button clicking force as I was constantly inadvertently pressing mouse buttons due to the reduced sensations in my hand.
    It isn’t a total success as I would like to have the button force set even higher but it is maxed out now.
    I’m 47 years old. I’ve been a gamer since the days of “Pong”. I would rather not stop. I would like to continue my hobby until my dying day. I’ve assembled my own computers starting with a Pentium II in the late 90’s. It is my passion, it is my life.

    • bender
    • 2 years ago

    I get it – Apple drops 3.5mm jacks so Microsoft seizes the opportunity with vigor.

    Well-played!

    • PBCrunch
    • 2 years ago

    The maker and retro gaming community could end up doing some pretty cool things with the external inputs on this thing. In my head I’m picturing things like homemade controllers similar to the joystick-gun thing in the Terminator 2 arcade game or breaking out all of the button inputs to make buzzers for an in-person multiplayer trivia game. The breakouts make all kinds of things possible.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 2 years ago

    If this ties into Windows through the controller driver (which it appears to) this could be used for so much more.

      • superjawes
      • 2 years ago

      XBOne controllers are already plug-and-play with Windows, so as long as PC users have the remapping tools available, this is ready to go.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 2 years ago

        Yes, it is. I’m thinking of it almost being an I/O for various other things and projects. This could do some cool stuff for robotics and the like for people that like to do that kind of stuff.

    • superjawes
    • 2 years ago

    Saw this yesterday, and it’s pretty awesome. Very cool to see MS being so inclusive, and developing a complete platform means that we will see all kinds of utilization.

      • jihadjoe
      • 2 years ago

      The CEO has a disabled son so this direction makes perfect sense for them.

      Now if only they would make Windows updates a little less forceful… Even Apple IOS doesn’t forcibly install and restart the device unless you give it permission to.

      • End User
      • 2 years ago

      Does this have Windows 10 on ARM drivers?

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 2 years ago

    Thats a lot of hardware for a small market, very impressive effort for apparently little profit.

      • drfish
      • 2 years ago

      I’m not going to pick on anyone that already makes this stuff but at just $100 for this flexible of a “hub” the market will be a lot bigger than it is now. Hopefully, these don’t become impossible to find. Oh, and anyone that’s scalping these on eBay after they come out can go [censored].

        • psuedonymous
        • 2 years ago

        For what this is (a USB HID device with breakouts for digital and analog inputs) it’s about the same price as comparable DIY offerings. The benefit is that it isn’t strictly a [i<]DIY[/i<] offering, which is attractive to many.

      • superjawes
      • 2 years ago

      I think that the positive press will cover the ROI, but the market is probably bigger than anyone suspects. Accessibility options in games are frequently used by those who don’t “need” them. Subtitles, for example, are primarily there for the hearing impaired, but how many gamers turn them on?

      And this is a much bigger platform. There’s a picture showing off a flight stuck, floor buttons, and what looks like an Xbox version of a Wii nunchuk. Just imagine what a good designer might do with that.

        • caconym
        • 2 years ago

        I can definitely imagine indie devs making some pretty interesting boutique arcade experiences with these things, like they’re already doing with MIDI performance devices.

      • Zizy
      • 2 years ago

      This could also see a decent market for non-disabled gamers. Cheaper than buying the elite controller and you get two nice foot buttons along with a hub.

    • EzioAs
    • 2 years ago

    Do most, if not all, assistive input devices use the 3.5mm port/jack as standard?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      Oh I’m an idiot. I didn’t see the ports on the back of the device.

      • drfish
      • 2 years ago

      It’s very common.

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