The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the first of its kind. It’s a plug-and-play option for people with disabilities – it connects to the Xbox One or Windows 10 PC via Bluetooth and powers on just like the Elite. The controller itself is a clean white rectangle, about 11 inches long and 6 inches wide, with two large black buttons on its face. The buttons aren’t touchpads, but they are light-touch enabled, clicking down with the softest of taps so players can roll their palm between the two or otherwise click them without exerting much force. Each button makes a slightly different noise as well, offering an extra layer of sensory input. […]
Some of the controller’s most impressive features are on back of the rectangle. Nineteen 3.5mm ports line the backside, one for each button on the traditional Xbox gamepad. This allows players to plug in their existing accessibility tools, such as air-powered input methods, big buttons or small clickers, and have them instantly mapped to the proper function. If a particular set-up isn’t working out for any reason, players or their caregivers can quickly change ports to manually remap their controller, all without pausing the game.
This is my new go-to example of a product with “good” design. The number of non-obvious considerations that went into the XAC’s design, in my opinion, set a new bar for accessibility and consumer hardware. Additionally, let’s be clear, no accessibility hardware looks this good. It would be laudable for Microsoft to create this controller at all, but I’m surprised at how nice the aesthetics are.
There’s an oft-quoted saying from Steve Jobs along the lines of: design isn’t just how it looks, it’s how it works. With the XAC, Microsoft has created a device that succeeds on both fronts to a stunning degree, and they did it for a community of users that are often forgotten. More of this, please.