We at DFC love elegant solutions — especially when they open up new experiences to folks underserved by the status quo. This is why we join most of the gaming community in a giant “w00t!” in response to the just-announced Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC).
Created to address the accessibility challenges of the standard controller that ships with Microsoft’s popular Xbox family of consoles, the XAC is a streamlined flat white oblong that boasts but a few key inputs. Besides the two menu buttons and the d-pad, two hand-sized black buttons — the “A” and “B” keys — take up most of the real estate on the face of the device. These buttons can be reprogrammed with the Xbox Controller app, but their ease and variety of ways with which a gamer with different mobility requirements can hit them (wrist! elbow! foot!) doesn’t change.
But the really cool functionality of this device is unveiled when turned on its side. Arrayed there are nineteen 3.5mm jacks, all ready for a prospective user to plug in as many pieces of equipment they need to make up their unique gaming setup. The XAC becomes a hub for joysticks of all kinds, foot pedals, cheek- or head-operated buttons, sip/puff switches, and more! From Ars Technica’s incredibly comprehensive report on the XAC’s debut:
I watched MikeTheQuad, a member of the Warfighter Engaged community of disabled veteran gamers, test the XAC out. As a tetraplegic, Mike has some range of arm and hand motion, but his individual fingers are not up to the burden of holding a controller and pressing all its buttons. […]
Mike used a standard Xbox gamepad alongside the XAC, plus a few large buttons plugged into the unit to rest near his wrists for easier access. That positioning flexibility is no small perk. XAC’s combo of wireless protocols, 20-hour battery, and mounting brackets means someone like Mike can pretty much put the hub wherever is most convenient.
Mike also quite frequently flicked his wrist at the XAC’s two big ‘dumb’ buttons to access controls like crouching or weapon swaps. As I watched Mike flick at the XAC with the same speed I might move my thumb from the ‘A’ button to the ‘Y’ button, I thought for the first time in my life about what a privilege it is to quickly tap around all of a gamepad’s buttons.”
While the XAC team does consider themselves a bit late to the overall accessible gaming scene, they are happy that their new device brings unprecedented flexibility to the table for an equally accessible price ($99.99 USD; other controllers on the market can go for $300 change). And, they profess to the belief that anyone else — Nintendo, Sony — should be able to look to the XAC for inspiration for their own platforms. The object is to get as many gamers as possible having as much fun as possible, without barriers. And who doesn’t love fun? — At least as much as elegant solutions!