“The packaging contains loops, hinges, levers, and ribbons...”
July 25, 2018 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller has packaging that gamers with disabilities can open without their teeth [The Verge] “Microsoft has clearly focused on accessibility for the controller, but it’s also revealing this week that it has taken a unique approach to the packaging for the product. People spend hours watching gadget unboxings on YouTube, but you rarely see a box that’s designed to be opened as easy as possible. That’s a design consideration that Microsoft has taken to heart for its new Xbox Adaptive Controller packaging. “A lot of these limited mobility gamers are actually used to opening packages with their teeth,” explains Mark Weiser, a packaging designer at Microsoft. The Xbox Adaptive Controller packaging can be opened a variety of ways, and it’s now even easier with or without the use of teeth.” [Previously.]

• Why Xbox spent a year designing the Adaptive Controller packaging [Engadget]
“For the past year, Marshall has been in charge of the packaging for the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a revolutionary gamepad designed to help people with limited mobility play video games. Microsoft revealed the controller, priced at $100, in May, and it should start shipping in September. Much like the designers behind the gamepad itself, Marshall and his team approached the Adaptive Controller packaging from a new perspective, keeping players with disabilities at the forefront of their decisions. After all, it wouldn't matter how great the new controller was if players couldn't get it out of the box. Weiser shepherded the Xbox Adaptive Controller packaging through all of its design phases. He said the team relied on an iterative approach, creating dozens of different prototypes with methods like 3D printing and die cutting, which allowed designers to rapidly generate new boxes based on feedback from beta testers.”
• The Xbox Adaptive Controller Gets an Accessible Box Design [Wired]
“One of the first design elements of the XAC packaging that will stand out is its many loops—rings of plastic or ribbon placed strategically around the package at key access points. Through its research, Microsoft’s team of designers discovered that a lot of gamers with limited mobility use their teeth to unbox something. This is not only frustrating and potentially disheartening, but damaging to teeth. But if gamers can get an appendage through a loop, they can use that as a lever to open a box or remove a device. As a result, there’s a looped ribbon at the seal of the product box. Pull on it and the box opens. The box’s top was designed with a hinge deep on the lower back of the box, “so you don’t need a broad stroke to lift the box top off,””
posted by Fizz (25 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
That packaging is great. Clever, functional, and works for a large segment of the population.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Microsoft’s team of designers discovered that a lot of gamers with limited mobility use their teeth to unbox something.

And lots of gamers without limited mobility do too. Hard to open packaging is a great example of how ableism harms everyone. Accessible packing isn't some niche demand, it's what literally everyone who has ever opened a package wants. And while I applaud Microsoft for working on their packaging for this product, it doesn't seem like they're extending accessibility to other product packaging. There is absolutely no good reason to not have legally mandated accessibility standards for packaging. It would be a boon for everyone.

But still, it's good packaging and I'm glad that the people who pushed for it and designed it got the chance to do so.
posted by howfar at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2018 [27 favorites]


There is absolutely no good reason to not have legally mandated accessibility standards for packaging. It would be a boon for everyone.
Indeed, those plastic shell things that so many products/items seem to be packaged inside of are a nightmare. I hate them with a passion and I've rage thrown things across the room in frustration. I'm sure it's something to do with cost, but fuck that.
posted by Fizz at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


Isn't the move to difficult to open packaging due to shoplifting/loss prevention? Will these easier to open packages be limited to shipped orders, or will they actually be available at brick and mortar stores?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is great!

For many years, every time I’ve struggled with some stubborn packaging, I’ve thought about how much a pain in the ass dealing with it will be when I’m 70 and my fingers don’t work as well.

The damn individual string cheeses where the two layers of plastic film don’t separate well and invariably require (in)judicious application of teeth and/or sharp metal implements to open. A couple of weeks ago, after an episode that left me so disgusted with how this always happens, I googled “difficulty opening string cheese” and commiserated with the rest of humanity. One source was a YouTube video where a woman with paralyzed hands was showing how she struggled with string cheese packaging, that made me just want to hurl things at packaging designers.

Also maddening: the protective inner seal just under a bottle’s cap that doesn’t have a tab on one side to facilitate removal. The clamshell packages that are entirely fused together. The all-bottle shrink-wrap plastic that doesn’t have a built-in access point.

In contrast, just yesterday, I unpackaged a WD Passport hard drive (yes, a shipped purchase) in clamshell packaging and was astonished to find that 1) the clamshell package wasn’t fused all the way around, and 2) they had left two large tabs, nicely offset from each other, to facilitate opening. I may have said a little prayer of blessing on those package designers.

I hope more manufacturers take note. These accommodations are great for people with disabilities, and pretty awesome for the rest of us, as well.
posted by darkstar at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is quite a step forward from... 2007-ish, when I purchased an XBox 360 wired controller, and ended up scratching it instantly because of the ultra-thick, extra-resistant blister pack that wouldn't bulge with regular stationary scissors and had to go with an hobby knife.

If I purchased a new controller, I'm almost sure it could go the same way, so yeah, maybe they should rethink how packages work in general, not just this (which is turning out to be my favourite tech story of the year).
posted by lmfsilva at 12:39 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I agree with all of you. As a small, small data point I've been really impressed with the thought put into packaging of the physical items I've purchased from Google Fi and Steam as well. Both were, while not as eloquent as this implementation, no fuss, no muss and were a pleasure to open and reutilize around the home.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:43 PM on July 25, 2018


Slow progress is still progress. Woo!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2018


It's great progress, but still has a USB-C connector (which is still better than USB-A).
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2018


What connector should it have?
posted by aubilenon at 12:52 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


That packaging looks a lot like the "plain" packaging that Apple parts and refurb equipment is shipped in, right down to the cascading unfolding cardboard... though the little pull tab is tinier and less accessible.

Now can they make all the regular packaging as kind? Like lmfsilva, I bought an XBox controller and was dumbstruck at how bulletproof the plastic packaging was. I used two different knives to get into it... and this was in 2018.
posted by rokusan at 12:55 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, this is not something I would've ever thought about before! Thanks for the post! (And I fucking HATE those clamshell packages.)
posted by sperose at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


What connector should it have?

I don't know. There's nothing I know of that exists that can be easily handled by someone with motor control difficulty. Maybe something like the Apple Magsafe port would be a good start.

The controller has wireless capability so maybe it's all moot.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2018


Still gotta charge it.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2018


I once had a friend who I later discovered his dad's company made or even invented those god awful clamshell packages.

We don't talk any more.

Granted, I did threaten to assassinate his father.
posted by loquacious at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


It's great progress, but still has a USB-C connector (which is still better than USB-A).

I'm not even sure what that USB-C port is for, considering all the add-on devices are oldschool USB-A, as shown. Is it just for power?

I do miss the Magsafe, though, you're right about that.
posted by rokusan at 3:26 PM on July 25, 2018


Hard to open packaging for electronics and whatnot is completely due to shoplifting, whereas difficult to open food packages exist at an intersection of tamperproofing and preservation. Large electronics like this are either shipped direct or go into lucite lock boxes in store. When I was working in retail the easy-to-open boxes were almost always targeted by shoplifters. I imagine the more people shop online the more accessible packaging will get.
posted by Jilder at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


All the add-on buttons, switches, blow-tubes, etc. connect via 3.5mm phone jacks. This is standard for accessibility-focused hardware of that sort. There are also two USB-A host ports for attaching more complicated classes of devices, like external joysticks. The USB-C port is for connecting the controller to the Xbox or PC.

The primary beauty of this controller is that it is a cheap base to attach whatever inputs are right for you that handles all the smarts of talking to the Xbox or PC.

Having built accessibility tools for family members in the past, I'm very excited about this as a platform to build on. My first one is on pre-order already.
posted by bcd at 4:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


On the horrifically annoying clamshell packaging: I keep a pair of aviation snips handy, problem solved. I once cut the driver CD and manual in half without realizing because there usually isn't anything but the label in the upper part of the package, and it was just as effortless as the plastic alone. Probably would be useful for all types of people because it offers far more control with much less hand strength and motor control than scissors or a utility knife.

Ha, and on looking for an image, the very first comment on this lifehacker post says the same thing.
posted by cjdavis at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2018


+1 for product design being thoughtful, human focused, and adding tools to the world for people to use. I want one myself even though I wouldn't be categorized as "disabled".

Notice the use of 3.5mm "audio" jacks for buttons -- this is the standard for connecting switches and buttons in adaptive technology, so lots of existing input devices can be used. They're also simple and dirt cheap, so this is really hacker friendly and a huge boon for anyone wanting to create customized controllers of any kind for x-box!
posted by thefool at 6:20 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Notice the use of 3.5mm "audio" jacks for buttons -- this is the standard for connecting switches and buttons in adaptive technology, so lots of existing input devices can be used. They're also simple and dirt cheap, so this is really hacker friendly and a huge boon for anyone wanting to create customized controllers of any kind for x-box!

I wouldn't be surprised if someone finds a way to make this controller friendly for other mobility devices not related to gaming. Thinking of wheelchairs, robotic arms, etc.
posted by Fizz at 6:36 AM on July 26, 2018


I know there are several open drivers/sdks for xbox360 controllers floating around the web but not sure about current xbox one. Last time I worked in this area I think we just had a PS/2 keyboard interface that generated keystrokes or it might have been a serial connection that sent characters for the different buttons ('1', '2', etc). So that was pretty old school.
posted by thefool at 6:59 AM on July 26, 2018


.... I would guess there is probably xbox one library/drivers available? If anyone has good links (including to Linux driver/library) let us know!
posted by thefool at 7:04 AM on July 26, 2018


I am really excited about the controller itself. What do the various inputs look like that people use with this type of controller? Seems very extensible and modular, which is always a cool thing.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:24 AM on July 28, 2018


The USB-C port is for connecting the controller to the Xbox or PC.

That's what surprised me, since I don't think even the latest XBox X or S have USB-C.

I mean, I'm sure it's coming, but it seems generationally out of sync.
posted by rokusan at 11:21 AM on July 28, 2018


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