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.