By Abhimanyu Ghoshal
Microsoft is trying to make gaming more accessible with its upcoming Xbox Adaptive Controller, which lets you plug in an array of peripherals that players with limited mobility can use more easily than a standard gamepad.
The device – which was leaked earlier this week – comes with large programmable buttons housed in a rectangular body that’s designed to be placed flat on a table, sit comfortably in a player’s lap, or be mounted on a wheelchair or desk.
On the back, you’ll find 19 3.5mm jacks that map to all the inputs you’ll find on a standard controller, like the triggers, action buttons, joysticks, and directional buttons. The idea is to connect external switches and other peripherals in any configuration that players prefer, to make their gaming experience more comfortable.
For example, there’s the Quadstick, a joystick you can operate with your mouth, by blowing or sipping air from its straw-like sensors. Microsoft also describes a setup using RAM Mounts with connected buttons lets you use your leg to control gameplay, as they form a sort of brace around your leg. You can also find compatible foot pedals and one-handed joysticks to use with the Adaptive Controller.
Microsoft says that the device came together with advice from gamers as well as accessibility advocates, and with efforts at hackathons that it held in 2015 and 2016. The company opened its Inclusive Tech Lab last year at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to take those ideas further.
Beyond supporting a wide range of devices, the Adaptive Controller is designed to be reconfigured at a moment’s notice – that way, it can be used by people with different kinds of disabilities and specific needs, and they can experiment with various configurations to find what works best for them, and for different games.
It’s great to see a hardware maker thinking this way about making its products more accessible to a wider audience. Hopefully, it’ll spur the development of allied peripherals and see them become available at lower price points too.
Abhimanyu is an avid gamer, street food gourmet, and design connoisseur.
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