Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller

My sister has been fighting multiple sclerosis (MS) for quite some time now. She is losing the ability to control her body, and with that the ability to interact with the world through her computer.

Using a regular mouse and keyboard is no longer viable.

Thankfully Windows 10 has accessibility features built in. Features such as Cortana voice recognition and the On Screen Keyboard (OSK) are helpful. For a while my sister used a regular mouse and the OSK. This setup worked for some time, but moving the mouse reliably and accurately became impossible.

The Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) is a game changer. The folks at Microsoft have developed this wonderful controller in their Microsoft Devices department as part of the Inclusiveness initiative. The controller is designed to enable people with disabilities to participate in gaming on the Xbox platform.

Like most Microsoft game controllers the XAC can also be used on a Windows 10 computer. On a Windows 10 computer it allows for regular gamepad style interaction with PC based games that support Microsoft game controllers. I’ve connected the XAC over a USB port but wireless connections may be possible.

The XAC is flexible with 2 large buttons, a couple of smaller ones, and 19 3.5mm device inputs for additional switches. Many companies make assistive switch devices that use the 3.5mm jack input connector. LogitechG has recently released a kit of such switches.

The XAC also has 2 USB input ports as joystick inputs. We deployed a single UltraStik 360 in this scenario connecting it to the left USB port of the XAC. While this makes for a great game experience on the PC, there is one more capability.

With the addition of a software shim program, the XAC can act as a mouse! This shim program is “reWASD” from Daemon-tools.

Now we have a mouse that my sister can use and control. The joystick allows her to use her arms and hands together to position the cursor, and the large button closest to her functions as the “left click” button of a mouse. She then uses the On Screen Keyboard with the cursor to enter text. She is once again able to participate in social web activities such as facebook, pay her bills, email, and order groceries, as well as staying in touch with family and friends.

The overhang on my sister’s computer desk was enlarged and lifted to allow the joystick and XAC to be permanently mounted and her wheelchair to get in close. The layout also has all cables secure and far away from the edges to avoid entanglement and accidental unplugging.

Cortana and other voice assistants are helpful but with her voice weakening as well, they’ll be less and less useful over time.

We’re now looking to add additional switches to optimize her experience. A U-shaped handle instead fo the red baton is likely in order. As well, with Windows 10’s built in eye tracking, we’ll start to experiment with Tobii eye trackers to allow her time to learn it before the joystick becomes unmanageable.

Thanks for reading and be sure to tell Microsoft you appreciate the XAC!

Components for this build:

Microsoft Windows 10 On Screen Keyboard utility

Micrososft Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC)

UltraStik 360 from RetroActive Arcade Ltd.

May 2020 - Sorry not currently available at RetroActive

reWASD software from Daemon-Tools