How a hackathon helped build the Xbox Adaptive Controller

James Shields gives us the inside scoop.

A small crew of designers pieced together the first prototype for the Xbox Adaptive Controller three years ago, at Microsoft's annual internal hackathon. The event invites employees to work on experimental or pet projects and present them to colleagues for feedback, and a handful of developers were interested in building a gamepad for people with limited mobility.

"There were certain assumptions that we had in mind when we created our traditional controller," Xbox accessories product marketing manager James Shields said on the Engadget stage at CES 2019. "We assumed people would have two hands, we assumed they would have all their fingers and thumbs, we assumed they would have the strength to hold the controller for a long period of time. So, we knew we had to do something to address that."

That core team of designers continued to work on the Xbox Adaptive Controller after the hackathon, partnering with Craig Hospital, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and charities including AbleGamers and Warfighter Engaged. The Xbox Adaptive Controller launched this past September, at a price of $100. As Shields explained, the controller is all about accessibility.

"One of the goals was to make sure this works with the widest array of devices possible," Shields said.