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New Xbox controller patent includes Braille output

Microsoft's done a lot to push accessibility on the Xbox One with its Adaptive Controller and various operating system features. Now it appears the company has another accessibility project in the works.

According to MS Power User, a patent has recently become public for a new kind of Xbox controller. The design looks a lot like the Xbox One Elite Controller, sharing the same backside paddles as that gamepad. The one key difference, however, has to do with the controller's ability to output Braille. As you can see on the backside of the controller, it features a panel that is capable of providing haptic Braille feedback, giving the visually impaired another way (outside of audio) to discern what's happening inside a game.

On top of that, the Elite-style paddles in the patent also appear to serve a different function than they do on the typical Elite controller. Microsoft's patent describes them as input mechanisms, providing players with the means to input Braille themselves using the controller and enabling "a visually-impaired or blind user to communicate with other players in real time."

This is just really, really cool.

Microsoft started focusing heavily on accessibility a few years back, adding features like Copilot and custom button mapping to the Xbox One's operating system so players could tailor their gaming experience to suit their needs. That effort took a big leap forward in September 2018 when the company rolled out the Adaptive Controller, which supports a number of different input methods and works with either Xbox One or PC. You might remember the company's holiday ad — called "Reindeer Games" — which featured a nine-year-old named Owen using the Adaptive Controller. And you might remember how well-received the ad was, as it reminded us all that gaming is for more than just the able-bodied; there are now a lot more people able to enjoy this hobby thanks to devices like these.

Microsoft's Braille controller patent is still just that, a patent. We don't have any word on whether or not the actual controller will ever see the light of day. But we'll keep an eye out for any news on it and let you know if Microsoft makes any announcements related to the controller or any other accessibility initiatives.