The world of gaming hasn’t always been the most inclusive. Just about every input device from a computer keyboard all the way up through a standard Xbox One controller is designed specifically for someone with two hands, ten fingers, and no issues using any of them.
But obviously that isn’t the case for everyone, and while third-party manufacturers have helped fill in the gaps for some people with limited mobility, that market can become expensive quickly, with questionable quality. Now, finally, Microsoft has stepped in with what they hope can be a big part of a solution, and from what they’ve shown, it looks like the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a big step forward.
Polygon talked about what makes it such a big deal for people with disabilities:
Its rectangular frame, which is about a foot long, features two large, slightly domed buttons on its face that can be mapped to any function through the Xbox Accessories app. Because a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One will see the device as a standard Xbox One controller, it’s compatible with every game at the system level.
On the back, there’s a line of 19 3.5 mm jacks — the standard connection for assistive input devices. These are the foundation of the controller’s adaptability; each port corresponds with a different button, trigger, bumper or D-pad function of the Xbox One controller. Players can plug foot pedals, fingertip-sized microswitches, additional large buttons or other peripherals that they may already own into these ports.
There are also USB ports on either side of the unit that map to the left and right analog sticks. Kumar and Kaufman demonstrated a nunchuck peripheral manufactured by PDP, a joystick commonly used for flight simulators and a 3dRudder foot controller as plug-and-play options that are compatible with the Adaptive Controller.
“We designed the controller to work around ecosystems that exist today, with peripherals that people who have limited mobility may already own today,” Kumar said. Kaufman noted that many third-party options people choose come from companies like AbleNet, which makes and sells a variety of these accessories already. Others include the QuadStick, a device that lets quadriplegic individuals sip or puff on a straw to control games.
It’s such genius; rather than attempt to flood the market with their own line of proprietary items (which would be borderline predatory, given the market involved), Microsoft designed a piece of hardware around the items gamers might already have.
There are plenty of cool software options, as well:
The controller also supports Copilot. Players can pair it with a traditional Xbox One controller, mapping half of the functions to the standard gamepad and half of the functions to the Adaptive Controller. This can help players, Kumar explained, who may have typical functionality in one of their hands, but need a different solution to use the other side of the controller.
If this sounds like it might be a lot to set up and reconfigure for each game, the Adaptive Controller includes one default profile and three custom ones, which are accessible from a profile button on the controller’s face.
This is a very good thing that has the potential to help a lot of people who otherwise would have been left out to enjoy gaming. Kudos to Microsoft.