In terms of making accessible gaming hardware financially accessible, there are very few devices as impactful as the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Originally announced four years ago, the controller was a mass produced base with ports for connecting third and first part accessibility switches and controllers, allowing for disabled players to create custom gaming setups at a somewhat affordable price.
While still more expensive than a traditional gaming controller, the Adaptive Controller decently reduced the barrier to entry for a lot of disabled players looking to build an accessible setup, and has become somewhat of a standard since its release.
However, it seems like Microsoft isn’t done trying to create new accessibility hardware solutions for disabled users, as they recently announced that later this year they will be releasing a set of adaptive accessories designed for use with a PC, and later mobile devices, both as gaming peripherals, but also for general day to day PC use.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about Microsoft’s new upcoming Adaptive Accessories. We’re going to talk about the three key components of the new setup, how they can be customised, and how they compare to the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an accessibility solution.
So, what parts make up this new set of adaptive accessories? Well, there’s the Adaptive Hub, Adaptive Buttons, and Adaptive Mouse.
First up, the Adaptive Hub functions as a replacement or augmentation option for a traditional keyboard, and functions somewhat similarly to the Xbox Adaptive Controller, just without the large face buttons. The device features a number of input ports, including 3.5mm Switch ports which are the same standard the Adaptive Controller uses, and can be programmed to set certain keys or key combinations to be activated with separate peripherals.
The Adaptive Mouse is a small flat square mouse designed to be augmented with a series of varied peripherals to change its shape, in order to make it easier to move and press buttons on. Its flat square shape is designed to make it easy to create custom 3D printed moulds for, in order to make user created custom mounts as easy to create as possible for specific needs.
Lastly, the Adaptive Button is an eight directional button which can be augmented with overlay button toppers to change its functions. It could be set up to act as a single button, a pair of buttons, a D-Pad, or even a joystick depending on the peripherals placed onto the top of it, and how it is programmed.
It seems that all of these individual components are bluetooth enabled, meaning they can be set up without being connected by cables, but any additional peripherals connected to them will still need to be cabled.
Right now, there are a lot of questions about these new Adaptive Accessories that need to be answered. We don’t know how many shells for the mouse or toppers for the button will be included as standard, or if the intention is that, much like the Adaptive Controller players will need to create or purchase their own augmentations to the base products. Many shells and toppers are shown off in promotional images, but it’s unclear how many of those will be available from Microsoft, or bundled with the base kit.
We also don’t know currently how much the Adaptive Accessories will cost, whether they will be available separately or as a bundle, or when exactly they will be released.
While there are currently a lot of unknowns about these new peripherals, I personally have a lot of faith that Microsoft will likely get things right with these new devices. Microsoft have demonstrably made a concerted effort to work with disabled creators on the designs of their accessible tech in the past, and have generally hit the mark and created products that have been really well received by disabled players.
When these peripherals release for PC and Surface Pro tablets later this year, we will be sure to do another video to let you know all the specifics of how they work in practice. But, until then, I am honestly just really excited to see Microsoft continuing to invest time and money into creating accessible hardware going forward.