Dad Makes Xbox And Nintendo Work Together To Bridge The Accessibility Gap

In the last few years, console and controller manufacturers have been making great strides in accessibility engineering in order to improve the inclusiveness of people with different motor disabilities into the gaming world. One such example is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which [Rory Steel] has used to build his daughter a fully customized controller to allow her to play Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch.

His build plan is outlined in just a few Twitter videos, and sadly we don’t have a detailed walkthrough on how to build our own just yet, though he mentions plans on making such guide in the future. In the mean time, it’s not too hard to speculate on some specifics. The Adaptive Controller can use USB-C for communication, as the Switch also does with its Pro controller in wired mode. Interfacing the two is as simple as using an adapter to bridge the gap between the two vendors.

The joysticks are each wired into generic gamepads which act as the left and right sticks, each one being a separate USB input into the Adaptive Controller, while each one of the button inputs is broken out to 3.5mm jacks on its back, making them dead simple to wire to the sixteen arcade buttons surrounding the sticks. The layout might look unconventional to us, and [Rory] mentions this is simply a prototype that will be improved upon in the future after real-world testing. The size of his daughter’s smile tells us this is already a success in her eyes.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a build with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and it’s nice to see just how well it enables parents to build their kids controllers they can use more easily, seeing as how before its introduction these kinds of controllers usually required the expertise for tearing expensive official controllers apart in ways the manufacturers never expected. We can only hope that going forward, this sort of accessibility becomes more the norm and less the exception.

[via Kotaku, thanks Itay for the tip!]

11 thoughts on “Dad Makes Xbox And Nintendo Work Together To Bridge The Accessibility Gap

  1. That is amazing! I love it when a tiny bit of engineering can bring so much joy! Also I’m very happy that Microsoft/ Nintendo put some considerable work in to make it so easy for many to do the last bespoke bit :)

  2. I wonder if there is a need for any signal conversion between ‘pro-controller’ and the 360 (if I recall correctly) based adaptive controller.. It might be as simple as plug and play (well join the usb data line and power line to the correct pins and plug in)..

    I’ve never quite understood the adaptive controller, its a neat idea but with how little there is in the way premade modules to plug into it I’m not sure how it wins over dismantling and soldering straight to a normal controller’s PCB’s.. It seems its a product that needs to come with heaps more premade options in how to interface with it that are suitable for the electronic/soldering novice. So the parent/disabled person can just buy the controller hub and all the parts and mounting hardware to assemble in a flatpack furniture style follow the instructions way creating their variety of controller.. As it stands you always seem to need a reasonable degree of maker skill to actually make use of it (in which case as you have somebody with that skill why not just solder to the PCB from a normal controller?) (I have not looked for pre-made control options for it recently as I’ve had no need to – so maybe it has now become possible to just buy the suck/blow/footpedal stick things now.)

    1. You dont really need any skill to make use of the adaptive controller:

      “The controller features USB ports on either side that are used to connect devices that map to analog stick functions. The back of the frame has nineteen 3.5 mm jacks that allow multiple assistive input devices to be connected; each jack corresponds to a different button, trigger, bumper or D-pad function on the standard Xbox One controller.”

      There is a big difference in skill between soldering to traces on a normal controller and crimping blade connectors to a 3.5 mm jack connector tail to connect to a multitude of different mechanical switch types, or just some wood working an mounting of existing options that are available for the controller. The reason that there aren’t any pre-made input mounting options for the adaptive controller is because each person and their limitations are completely different. The adaptive controller greatly reduces the skill level required to make a controller as well as allows for the flexibility of mounting the switches and buttons in any way possible to help the player play the game, something that pre-made modules with mounting couldnt necessarily do.

      I am curious though, what do you define as “maker skill”? because that seems to incorporate a whole lot of related skills that not everyone might have.

      also to see what input modules are available for those with out any soldering skills check out:
      https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/accessories
      and check mark assistive technologies

      1. Cool, as I said not looked in a while. Did when it was first released – it was all work it out and implement the control elements yourself. So while the person I was looking for was interested it was just too pricey and not easy enough for them to use at the time – went with simple sugru type mods to existing controller as they could work with that cheaply and quickly.

        You are quite correct there is a lot of varieties of maker skill that might be needed – but I would say for most people electronics is likely to be witchcraft (Nobody I know learned anything at all about it at school and it doesn’t come up in normal life, you have to be interested to learn about it -and is what I was thinking of mostly – feeding the right type of signal for the ‘analogue’ parts is not trivial at least compared to simple push buttons).

        Woodwork/Metalwork is more familiar to everyone I’d say – at least to the DIY clunky finish level which for the person needing the controller is almost irrelevant – I’m sure they would love the master craftsman finish, but its the function that matters to them.

        As for premade mounting options – it isn’t hard to have the construction toy/scaffold style pre-made mounting kits. Sure its not going to cover every possible use case or be perfect but Lego Techic /Meccano/20-20 extrusion style self assembly bits are very possible, and I’d have thought would be welcome for further lowering the barrier to entry.

    2. Almost none of the consoles use standard USB HID joystick protocols. Some of the controllers have modes where they enumerate as a “normal” HID device to allow them to be used with PCs, but to have it play nice with the console, you need protocol conversion. In many cases you need to have an “official” controller for the target console also connected for authentication purposes.

      Not entirely sure about Switch, but you cannot do cross-console controllers on PS4 hosts without a DualShock4 also connected for authentication.

      (I use a Titan Two to connect an Xbox One Elite controller to PS4 – the back paddles of the Elite can be used to trigger macros.)

      1. There was a discussion a while ago on espruino forums on a project I was working on ( basically, the M$ device but appearing as hid and thus not needing drivers ).
        I had the basics working ( wired & bluetooth via ‘flashed hc-05’ or espruino nrf-based board p ) & a little ‘gamepad lib’ that was recognized as hid on my laptop, but when trying to make that work on an xbox 360, it woulnd’t be recognized (M$ chip auth stuff).
        I needed to better know stm32f implm of the usb host / passthrough, so I turned to using a teensy for passthrough to an xbox controller & then ‘override’, but I didn’t have time to get back to digging how to implm the necessary [yet :/ .. ]
        In case it ´d help / interest someone: google OpenAdaptiveControlller :)

      2. Indeed I know Sony and MS have never played nice with each other. But no idea what a Switch will do when presented with a non-Nintendo licensed device. It might just work (at least if the controller does have standard HID compliance or is common enough for Nintendo to dump a driver for it in), or it might need conversion (Which I do expect but I just don’t know).

  3. An AVR 32u4 or Teensy with LUFA can emulate a Nintendo Switch USB gamepad controller. No authenticator chip so no need to connect an official Nintendo controller. The 32u4 is used in Arduino Leonardo, Micro, and Pro Micro so boards are easily available.

    https://github.com/progmem/Switch-Fightstick

    This is the basis for NS bots such as the snowball thrower bot.

    https://github.com/bertrandom/snowball-thrower

    Nintendo chose to make DIY gamepads easy when they decided to use standard USB HID gamepad descriptors and not to use an authenticator chip. Of course, easy assumes you know how to git clone, modify source code, install build env, burn HEX into a controller, solder, build an enclosure, etc.

  4. Because of a car accident, I ended up with a severed left radial nerve. That nerve is responsible for lifting fingers, or unclenching your fist. It makes it hard for me to let go of some things, and it all but makes typing with my left hand impossible. I’ve learned to type using my left ring finger and my right hand taking over much more of the keyboard than it is supposed to.

    I used to be a pretty talented PC FPS gamer. Not pro-level or anything, but people on public servers kinda hated me in the games at which I was good. Of all my injuries, the left radial nerve injury pissed me off the most (and I also lost my left foot thanks to the accident) because it meant I wasn’t able to game anymore.

    After a couple of years sans-gaming I finally hooked up with an old high school buddy and we cobbled together a sort of assisted game controller made using a Sanwa JLF arcade joystick with 6 arcade buttons in an arc around the joystick so that they were all within reach while using it. I used an Arduino Leonardo to act as a USB HID Keyboard and the joystick became my WASD and the six buttons took the most common FPS keybinds (like Left CTRL, Space, R…). Then I bought an expensive MMO gaming mouse with 12 thumb buttons and a couple of other conveniently-placed buttons to act as “the rest of the keyboard.”

    I’m still using the same assistive joystick I built all those years ago, and I’ve now got a Roccat Nyth MMO gaming mouse in a 9-side-button configuration. I most often use them to play Warframe and other cooperative or single-player games. I’ve gotten really good at gaming once again, but I can’t quite compete against seasoned gamers in FPS titles anymore. It has really changed my quality of life, though, because gaming has been my favorite form of entertainment since the mid-90’s.

    I’m glad to see that Microsoft has done something like this for people. Being able to game with friends is kind of a big deal in today’s society for children because it really is a huge portion of the entertainment industry for the younger demographics. I keep meaning to get back to work on the Arduino code and to come up with some way of changing the button keybinds without having to upload a new sketch, but ever since I got it to work for me I’ve just kinda let it sit (yeah, I’m spending all that time gaming, now xD).

    1. This is a great story. So many people’s quality of life can be improved with custom designed solutions that in the end are not so hard or no so expensive to achieve.
      The great thing with MS is they did release a solution knowing well they ll make no cash out of it. You may say “yeah they have shitload of money so they can” but fuck, they did it…
      Besides big corps, I love that hacker movements are using additive printing & cheap electronics to share most often freely and in open source solutions to many disabilities.

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