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Xbox Adaptive Controller blasts accessibility barriers for disabled gamers

Introducing the Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft is making gaming more accessible with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Available later this year, the new controller is nearly endlessly configurable for gamers with limited mobility.

Announcing the Xbox Adaptive Controller, head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote, “At Microsoft, we believe in empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Our CEO, Satya Nadella, has spoken about how essential it is that we push the boundaries of what technology can do in a concerted effort to be inclusive of everyone around the world.

“These principles have the deepest impact in how we are building products that are designed for everyone,” Spencer continued. “We have been on a journey of inclusive design, which celebrates and draws inspiration from people who are often overlooked in the typical design process.”

Xbox Adaptive Controller front
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Xbox Adaptive Controller has two large programmable buttons on the top surface, plus a D-pad, and Xbox, View, Menu, and Profile buttons. The left side has a USB port for left thumbstick input and a 3.5mm stereo headset jack.
A Right Thumbstick USB input port is the sole right-side connector.
The full connectivity array is revealed on the Xbox Adaptive Controller’s back. In addition to a DC power adapter port, a USB-C port, and a Connect button, a lineup of 19 3.5mm jacks is available for external buttons, thumbsticks, and triggers. In all, there are 23 accessory port and jacks. The Xbox team’s aim was to create a highly configurable accessibility centerpiece, and with 23 connections it’s fair to say they hit the target.

Microsoft had help with the Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft enlisted the help of gamers with limited mobility for input in the controller’s development. The organizations involved bringing the Xbox Adaptive Controller to light include The AbleGamers CharityThe Cerebral Palsy FoundationCraig HospitalSpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged.

Rather than starting with a list of specific limitations and turning in-house engineers loose, the project team widened the scope of challenges and solutions by involving gamers with varied disabilities. The engineers worked with the gamers to discover and address the real-world challenges faced by gamers with limited mobility rather than a subset based on theoretical constraints.

How to use the Xbox Adaptive Controller

How it works: Explore the Xbox Adaptive Controller [with Audio Description]

Don’t think the Xbox Adaptive Controller as a stand-alone accessibility gaming controller. Instead, consider the new controller as a hub for a wide range of adapters and other devices to make gaming more accessible.

Xbox Adaptive Controller connectivity
Image used with permission by copyright holder

USB ports and 3.5mm jacks on the new controller support switches, buttons, thumbsticks, mounts, triggers, and joysticks suitable for gamers with specific needs. In that sense, the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a DIY game controller-maker accessory.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller will list for $100 at Microsoft stores after an official launch later this year.

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Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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