(Photo: Microsoft)Microsoft has introduced a series of adaptive accessories aimed at making computer use more accessible.
The series was first announced during Microsoft’s 2022 Ability Summit (an annual event with panels and product announcements related to tech accessibility) and includes an Adaptive Mouse, Adaptive Hub, and several Adaptive Buttons. On its own, the Adaptive Mouse is a square-shaped module with right- and left-click options, as well as a scroll wheel. Should the user desire a palm rest, the Adaptive Mouse can be clipped into one of several Adaptive Mouse Tails, which can then be flipped around to support both right- and left-handedness.
The Adaptive Button is a versatile tool made to accommodate the user’s specific needs. Its simple design—a big, flat button on a square puck—allows for flexibility using three optional toppers: a dual button, d-pad, or joystick. These four total configurations can be programmed with up to eight digital inputs for work, web browsing, creative pursuits, gaming, and other everyday computer functions.
Assistive technology is useless if it can’t meet users where they’re at, though—something Microsoft seems to have understood as it developed its adaptive accessory suite. Those who are picky about cable management can opt to connect the devices wirelessly to a tablet or Windows PC, while users who prefer to use the standard 3.5 millimeter assistive tech switch can connect that way. Each adaptive accessory supports up to three configuration profiles in case the user wants to use them with multiple devices.
Microsoft is also opening a new Inclusive Tech Lab to support continued iteration on assistive tech and provide a creative space for disabled communities. The Xbox team opened the company’s first makeshift inclusivity lab back in 2017 when it developed the Adaptive Controller, but this new facility is Microsoft’s first truly “dedicated space.” The 2,000 square foot lab sits on Microsoft’s 500-acre campus in Redmond, Washington, and includes a sensory stimulation corner, a demo classroom, a conference room, and a “work and play” area with desks and Xbox consoles.
“This new, larger space represents what we’ve learned over the past five years and enables our product makers to expand this work in new ways and through new products,” Microsoft’s announcement reads. “It is a space where our designers can challenge assumptions while learning to recognize the exclusions and constraints faced by people with disabilities. We harness that understanding to create new ideas, designing for ‘one’ and extending to many.”