Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have partnered up to give veterans greater access to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. According to Xbox Wire, they plan to initially give controller units to 22 VA rehabilitation centers in the U.S.
In a talk with Microsoft Stories, Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, said that the VA rehab centers will gather information to help Microsoft study the effectiveness of the controllers in assisting veterans, and how they can be improved. According to the Verge, the controllers have been designed to improve various things like socialization and hand-eye coordination, and will be incorporated into therapeutic activities.
PC Gamer reports that the VA's Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events will also get access to the controllers for different events they host, like the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Individually priced at around $99.99, the Xbox Adaptive Controller is the result of a chance encounter between Microsoft and the nonprofit Warfighter Engaged, an organization dedicated to making games more accessible to injured veterans. From there, Microsoft worked on prototypes for more accessible gaming equipment in hackathons. Eventually, their efforts led to the full product release of the Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018.
Polygon reported that Microsoft collaborated with not only Warfighter Engaged to create the controller, but also other gaming accessibility organizations like SpecialEffect and AbleGamers. The company also sought input from the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller is meant to make gaming more accessible to all people when traditional controllers aren’t as useful for them. However, Xbox Wire says that gaming is popular among the military, serving as another way to socialize and providing other benefits.
Microsoft Story Labs spoke with Microsoft Stores retail learning specialist Solomon Romney about using the Xbox Adaptive Controller in tandem with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," Romney said.
According to the Xbox website, the controller is highly customizable, meant to connect to a variety of other devices like joysticks and buttons.
With Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, estimating that Microsoft has had an almost 20-year relationship with the VA, this project centered on providing veterans with more Xbox Adaptive Controllers seems like the next natural step.
Have you played with an Xbox Adaptive Controller? Do you know a veteran who plays games, or are you a veteran into gaming? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.