In the lab: Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller and accessories

When Microsoft announced its Xbox Adaptive Controller late this spring, I was not only impressed, but genuinely excited. As some of you know, my oldest daughter Ellie has Cornelia de Lange syndrome and just about every physical and mental challenge that comes along with it (plus some bonus features). I've long pondered hacking together something for her out of a HID-emulating breadboard and arcade cabinet buttons that would've resembled a much less elegant Xbox Adaptive Controller.

The loop built into the packing tape is where the story begins.

That project never got off the ground, though, so I pre-ordered Microsoft's offering on day one and it arrived yesterday. I'm not taking it out of the box yet because I'm going to attempt an unboxing video this weekend. Unboxings aren't really my thing, but I figure that special attention to packaging deserves special attention to un-packaging. Look for that video soon.

To go along with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, I picked up a couple officially approved accessories. First up is the StealthSwitch FS-2 Foot Pedal, a robust-looking steel footswitch designed to plug into alternative controllers such as the StealthSwitch3. As a gaming peripheral, it clocks in at just $20 and gives me some cheap flexibility as I go forward. Not to mention it should hold up well against Ellie's infamous Hulk-smashing.

Think the Xbox Adaptive Controller is too expensive? Hold AbleNet's beer.

In addition, I picked up the AbleNet 100SPR Specs Switch, a small plastic switch that, at $60, costs over half as much as the Xbox Adaptive Controller itself. We're treading into medical device territory here, and that isn't any fun to pay for, but it does offer some perspective and gives me another option to play with. It should be an interesting contrast to the other footswitch, at least.

Finally, I'm going to do some experimenting with homebrewed switch designs and a custom mount for them in the full review. Stay tuned for that down the road.

Colton Westrate

I post Shortbread, I host BBQs, I tell stories, and I strive to keep folks happy.

Comments closed
    • llisandro
    • 1 year ago

    Sounds like an awesome project!
    I have a neighbor kid with a neurodegenerative disorder that eroded fine-motor control in his hands, so we are (very slowly) working on designing a macro pad for him to use [url=https://beta.docs.qmk.fm/features/feature_mouse_keys<]mouse keys[/url<] controlled with a Pro Micro to help him in 3D programs. I've talked to his parents about the Adaptive Controller, so I'll be watching this with interest!

    • sweatshopking
    • 1 year ago

    This is cool. Looking forward to hearing about this, coltan. Keep us posted on your daughter and how this works out over the long term, post unboxing and the short term testing.

    • drfish
    • 1 year ago

    Ellie doesn’t have the cognitive ability to play a game in the conventional sense, even a very simple one. However, she does have a fundamental understanding of cause and effect and enjoys screens/lights and clicky things. I’d love to hear some suggestions for PC games that do interesting visual things based primarily on one or two “go” buttons. Ideally, games wouldn’t have a fail condition that brings up a menu that would become an obstruction to her continued play.

    There are lots of touch-screen “games” for babies and that operate at Ellie’s level, but touch-screens aren’t the easiest thing for her to interact with. So, if you have experience with them, a controller friendly version of that kind of thing would be a good fit, just as an example.

      • DPete27
      • 1 year ago

      I remember thinking “Tilt Brush” ([url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TckqNdrdbgk<]link here[/url<]) was a particularly neat VR demo. Not sure if something like that could fit the bill, but an open sandbox game might be what you're looking for.

        • drfish
        • 1 year ago

        I would love to have Ellie experience VR, but physically and optically the current crop of headsets just isn’t compatible with someone her size. For reference, she’s almost 6-years old and her 16-month old sister is already bigger than her.

      • Pbryanw
      • 1 year ago

      It’s a few year’s old now, but I wonder if a gentle walking simulator like Proteus might fit the bill? It has full controller support on Steam and, as far as I’m aware, only one button is used for travelling around the environment.

      Basically you walk around a procedurally generated island, and events & sounds happen as you do so (the videos on Steam & their website give a better indication of gameplay). [url=https://store.steampowered.com/app/219680/Proteus/<]Proteus on Steam[/url<] - [url=http://twistedtreegames.com/proteus/<]Proteus website[/url<] ($5 on their website at the moment)

        • drfish
        • 1 year ago

        THAT is an inspired idea, and I already own it. Thank you!

          • Pbryanw
          • 1 year ago

          Thanks! I’m just glad I could help in some small way 🙂

      • gerryg
      • 1 year ago

      My kids loved a program some years ago that mapped all the keyboard keys to different .WAV files. Many of them were sound bites from Star Wars, like Luke saying “Don’t do that”, or R2D2 chirping. You could set it up so combining certain combinations of sounds played causes blinken lights to happen, or vice versa. So while you don’t “win” or “lose”, you get a “reward” for simple combos. Or maybe you play several sounds in a row, then hit the foot pedal/big button to play them all back in order. Or maybe in random order. Or maybe use it to switch effects.

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