Open Gaming To Everyone With A Controller Meant To Be Hacked

Gaming controllers have come a long way from an Atari 2600’s single button and digital joystick. As games grew more sophisticated, so did the controllers. This development had a dark side – controllers’ growing complexity have made it increasingly difficult for different-abled bodies to join in the fun. Microsoft has extended an invitation to this audience with their upcoming Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Creative minds have been working on this problem for a while, building an ecosystem of controller hacks to get more people into gaming. These projects require solving problems in two broad categories: the first is to interface with input devices that match a specific user’s needs, the second is then integration into target game device’s control infrastructure.

The value of XAC is eliminating the second category of work and making it reliable: it takes care of all the housekeeping overhead of creating a custom Xbox controller, from power management to wireless communication. As for input device interface, every control needed to play on a Xbox is individually mapped to a standard 3.5 mm jack. Some are pure digital ports, others can transfer an analog value. A 3.5mm plug is a proven consumer-friendly interface that’s easy to work on by anyone who wants to pick up a soldering iron, making this array of jacks a wide-open gateway to limitless possibilities. The 3.5 mm jacks make it easy to build specific configurations, and make it easy for less-technical people to reconfigure for a different player or different game.

We love to see our hacker creativeness applied to help people live normal lives. Making it easy to hack up a custom gaming controller may not be earth shattering, but don’t underestimate the importance of letting people feel included. It does transform lives, one at a time. Plus, it looks like fun to play with.

[via Ars Technica]

35 thoughts on “Open Gaming To Everyone With A Controller Meant To Be Hacked

  1. Reading the article, they even took special care to design the product packaging so that it’s easy to open & remove the product. So awesome of Microsoft to do this!

    1. I’m skeptical, is MicroSoft “a leopard changing its spots”, or is it just another FUD* or EEE** tactic to spring on customers?
      Time will tell…
      *Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
      **Embrace, Extend, Extinguish

        1. I forgot which video it was in, but it was revealed to be $100. Which is quite reasonable all things considered. More expensive than a regular controller, but far cheaper than an Elite controller.

          1. Next question becomes: is that the base unit or does it include the actuators too? I know that sometimes pedal are surprisingly pricey, I guess it’s because they have to be more sturdy than things people use with their hand, feet tend to have more impact. But anyway, yeah $100 is doable, after all it’s the difference between no gaming or gaming for some of the target audience, so even if they lack the funds their friends will pitch in I’m sure. And in many civilized countries the government or health insurance gives additional funds to deal with issues.

  2. The first google result for different abled that isn’t an explanation is a page talking about how this term marginalizes disabled people. Maybe consider using a different term.

      1. I’m a fat, disabled cripple that rides a Rascal scooter. If anyone has a problem with hearing me say things like that, it’s on them.
        As a disabled person, I can’t stand hearing idiotic PC terms like “differently abled”, “physically challenged”, or any of the other nonsense terms people have come up with to avoid saying the obvious. I can’t speak for other handicap people, but I happily use terms like “disabled”, “handicap”, “fat”, and “cripple”. They are descriptive terms that carry the proper meaning to all who hear them, unlike the PC garbage terms that are literally nonsense.

        1. I assume it’s rather to include people, for many ‘disabled’ means ‘in a wheelchair’, whereas some of those other terms better describe people who have other physical impairments which mean they struggle to interact with the world. Technically, you’re correct the word ‘disabled’ should be enough but since it already has the connotation of an inability to walk it’s easier to make a new phrase to take over the original meaning of ‘disabled’. Humans love to categorise, this is just a part of that.

        2. Every time I hear “differently abled”, I have to remind myself that no, that doesn’t mean they have different abilities. It is such a stupid term as it doesn’t even convey the meaning intended – that there is a disparity between the average person’s abilities and the subject. PC or not, “differently abled” doesn’t do anything constructive and only serves to muddy the meaning of words.

          I understand that some people want to minimize the difference – let them, but “differently abled” is not the appropriate term.

    1. No matter what a person uses when trying to be respectful, everything falls foul of the euphemism treadmill. Which is great for people who want to virtue signal by attacking anyone who doesn’t use “the right term”, because “the right term” doesn’t exist!

    2. I’d normally use disabled or handicapped, but since this device leaves it open who uses it and some of the users would not consider themselves, or be strictly considered, disabled perse I guess that changes things.
      In fact you could use it because you just like to hold things differently , or as a person said how some people want a pedal switch for their game, or maybe you just have a job where you get sore in a way that makes a regular controller cumbersome after work.

  3. I really wondered what jacks would be used for this. It might be nice if there was also a single combined connector in addition to the individual ones. That would make swapping entire controllers more easy. Could also allow for the use of 1/4 inch jacks to improve ease of use.

    1. By all means! Nothing restricts XAC to its target market, you should totally get one when it’s available and get creative. At $100 it sits between the $50 standard controller and the $150 elite, which doesn’t feel out of line for a low-volume device and an absolute bargain compared to the price premiums prevalent in its target market.

  4. I want to say “just use a molex” or something to that effect, but, using 3.5 mm jacks might be the smartest thing. They are about the only type of connector i can still reliably purchase around here without going online. (I dislike waiting on shipping when I have a project that needs doing)

    1. I’m nearly deaf and get catalogs periodically from some companies that sell products for people with various handicaps. I dunno how they find me, but they do. I’ve noticed that buttons/switches sold to those with limited mobility almost all use a 3.5mm jack. Think it was probably a ‘must have’ requirement to support an existing ecosystem of hardware.

      Price of anything related to handicaps is always feels high for what it is. An example of is a USB to 3.5mm dongle that is for use with a single switch button. SW-0105-X Swifty and Orby Bundle – Single Switch, (X- for color) $114.95. Want two switch buttons? $169. For those of us here, we know how simple that device is! A microcontroller and a button with a bit of wire. All can be done under $10 and that’s being a lazy shopper.

      Good they can reuse their hardware without having reinvest in them again.

      1. Wow, that’s super expensive. Just took a look at their website and there’s nothing to indicate it’s anything other than a reasonable microswitch in a plastic housing.

      2. What the fuck. That’s just exploitation. Despicable. This really reminds me why HaD likes to give attention to these accessibility hacks, and rightfully so. The commercially available options are ludicrously overpriced, as is the price of almost anything that is remotely medical in nature.

        I’m sure there are people who would rush to justify the price of such things, but I just don’t see it. Seems evil to me.

    2. Yeah, phone jacks are everywhere. You can get them prewired. Molex and other connectors like minifits need the right crimped which by itself is going to be half the price of the controller for a cheap one.

    3. I don’t know if this is true, but at least according to some of the coverage of this device it was claimed that 3.5mm jacks are already the most common connector used for existing interfaces, so they can leverage what people already are working with it this space, and they’re just providing a ready made and supported interface to the devices.

  5. I just noticed that it requires 5v 2A, 2A is a lot of power, and means it comes with a adapter since it’s not USB powered.

    Question remains why it needs so much, you can get MIDI devices with tons of rotary encoders and lots of LED and buttons and it can often still be bus powered from USB.
    Also means that the thing is not too mobile, which can be a bit of a drawback for this kind of device.

  6. This just arrived on my door step today. The build quality is better than I expected. From what I can tell you can power this off USB c or a power adapter. As a controller hub, I am extremely pleased. The documentation is pretty slim in the pack, and it does not tell you much. I am unsure of it’s compatibility with say a Nintendo or a PS4, as I plan to use this on a PC and map a few keys to it I have one hand, so I use a Stinkyboard (directional foot-board) , with a Logitech G600 (mouse with a ton of keys on it), and a nice keyboard. Hopefully I can ditch the keyboard for some gaming.

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