Why can you play the Lego version of Xbox released by Microsoft without using your hands?

Looking at this pile of parts, what do you think of first?

LEGO Plus, cyber bricks, or a half-finished Xbox controller?

This desk module, which comes in different sizes and shapes, is Microsoft's latest accessible game controller – the Proteus Controller.

Compared with traditional game controllers, "uncertainty" is the biggest feature of Proteus. In other words, it can become whatever you want or what suits you best.

It is this highly customized modular concept that allows more players to get a better gaming experience:

Whether accommodating a physical disability or simply customizing, the Proteus controller puts the control in your hands for a truly personalized and inclusive gaming experience.

CyberLego

Classic controllers such as PS5 and Xbox series

The handle looks like this

Indeed, it must be admitted that these preset shapes are comfortable to hold and have realistic vibrations. They are also the best choice for current large-scale console games.

However, this dual-wielding symmetrical shape is not suitable for all games, nor is it suitable for all people. For example, in the eyes of some players with physical disabilities, these mainstream devices are actually "special equipment."

The emergence of Proteus is a bit breaking the rules. At least judging from the functions currently announced on the official website, it is also reconstructing the handle.

Although the parts of Proteus look messy and miscellaneous, they can actually be easily divided into three categories based on the shape of each part:

  • Main module
  • Peripheral modules
  • Auxiliary accessories

The main module is the cube in it, which is the core part of Proteus. Its main function is to determine the layout of the handle components and the overall shape of the handle.

Each cube can be connected to other cubes at 16 different angles. After being fitted together, the white lock switch on it can be flipped to lock the two components.

Moreover, according to the official website, each kit will be equipped with at least one Power Cube. The Power Cube is used to power the controller and also allows the component to connect to devices such as an Xbox or PC through a Bluetooth adapter.

Use cubes to lay the foundation, and then install peripheral modules on top. Using different arrangements and combinations, as well as module selection, Proteus can have various customized functions.

There are many styles of circular peripheral modules. In addition to the basic regular buttons such as "menu-home function keys", "ABXY operation keys", "direction keys" and "joysticks", they also include handle-specific "LB-LT" and "RB" -RT" button and trigger.

Of course, due to the high degree of customization, the official said that more peripheral modules will be developed in the future to cope with more usage scenarios and adapt to more game player groups.

The last major category of auxiliary accessories takes the concept of customization to the extreme.

If the above-mentioned peripheral modules are just a carnival for the game manufacturer alone, then the auxiliary accessories allow third parties (accessory manufacturers, players) to participate in Proteus' customization party.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone.

Players can customize their own adjustable handle according to their hand size and operating habits, and 3D printed components can finally become official products.

Microsoft officials also announced that they will open source the connection mechanism, allowing users to 3D print their own parts and share their solutions in the official community.

Proteus uses three major categories of components and a large community to rewrite the form of game controllers. Although many foreign media still define it as a product "designed for people with disabilities" in their reviews, it is not difficult to see from Microsoft's promotional slogan for Proteus It turns out that they have greater ambitions for their newly launched customized handles:

Proteus controllers are designed for everyone

All parts of Proteus can be "plug and play", the connection between the parts is very simple, and it can also be adapted to Xbox and PC games. With this kit, players can build more than 100 million controller shapes and customize Define configurations and LED lighting changes.

There's nothing you can't think of, nothing you can't do

The Proteus package contains a total of 24 components.

While customization brings the most suitable product form to individuals, it also creates some troubles: How should so many accessories be arranged and combined?

In this regard, the official also provides several practical combination methods based on the needs of different game players.

The first splicing method is called One Handed and is designed for operation with one hand.

Compared with the traditional handle layout, One Handed changes from the normal "symmetrical arrangement" to a "distributed arrangement".

The four theme modules are in an L shape, and the peripheral components are placed together according to different categories. The ABXY operation keys are placed in the center.

There is another small detail worth mentioning. You can see that the "LB-LT" and "RB-RT" buttons and trigger keys are not placed vertically, but have a 45° tilt.

This design is to better adapt to the operation of the left hand. You can easily touch the designated buttons with just the fingers and palm of one hand.

If you only have right-hand operation, mirror the above layout and re-join it, and it will still fit perfectly.

Another No Handed combination that can be placed flat on a table or mounted on a wheelchair.

The 2×3 combination allows players to operate the device without hands and only with their face, and anti-slip pads are installed under each square to ensure the stability of the device during hands-free operation.

The above solutions are just examples. Everyone can boldly create a controller that suits them best according to their physical condition and operating habits.

For example, this 2×2 arrangement places the joystick on the side, which is more suitable for players who are accustomed to using their thumbs to operate the joystick keys.

Among the many solutions on display, the one that impressed me most was the handle of a straight-shaped joystick.

On the one hand, the curved layout is very ergonomic for one-handed holding, and every button can be within reach of your fingers;

On the other hand, the joystick placed at the bottom has become the finishing touch of this solution. It is not only the support point of the handle, but also allows players to perform an additional dimension of operation through the rotation of their wrists.

Moreover, this type of controller is perfect for playing simulation control games such as airplanes and racing cars.

Barrier-free devices not only require hardware reconstruction, but software adaptation is equally important. Proteus is the intersection of these two points.

Players can save the redesigned hardware form and functions in the Proteus supporting software, and can use it directly the next time they assemble without having to re-debug the settings.

In addition, players can also change the function of each button according to the button layout of the controller, such as the direction of the joystick (left to right), so as to make the controller more suitable for game operations.

At the same time, Proteus has not become boring because of its status as an "accessible device". On the contrary, it is more personalized than the traditional Xbox controller. In addition to being able to be spliced ​​at will, the Proteus App also provides LED lighting adjustment, and players can adjust the controller backlight. The color and brightness of the lights can enhance the atmosphere of the game.

Highly customized + creative design + software and hardware synergy, Proteus has won international awards such as the Dyson Design Award. Although there is still a certain distance from the official release, in terms of concept, Proteus still tolerates and pays attention to various player groups. At the forefront of the industry.

For players, the criterion for judging good equipment is not what awards it has won, but whether it is easy to use. Overall, Proteus has done a good job.

Convenience, equality, respect

The concept of Proteus was born 4 years ago.

In 2020, Brandon Blacoe and Eibhlin O'Riordan met again at Game Jam (a limited-time game development challenge) after losing contact for many years when they were young. The two collaborated to complete a slime game in the competition.

At this time, Eibhlin was suffering from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome—a rare genetic connective tissue disease that causes abnormal joint flexibility, excessive skin elasticity, and fragile tissues—so he was unable to play games with a traditional controller for a long time. .

After that, the two came up with an idea: to find a game controller suitable for more people to use.

Brandon, who majored in electrical and computer engineering, and Eibhlin, who majored in game design, hit it off and founded ByoWave.

Over the next two years, they continued to iterate on the Proteus controller prototype. In order to speed up the development progress, Brandon proposed the idea of ​​3D printing cubes, which was highly recognized by professional testers.

From the end of 2022 to the beginning of 2023, Brandon spent 7 months in China to establish Proteus's supply chain; ByoWave also established a R&D team in China to improve equipment manufacturing capabilities.

Now, Proteus (Microsoft/Designed for Xbox/ByoWave), jointly developed by the three companies, is set to debut this fall.

The creation of ByoWave and the birth of Proteus seem to be just the founders' attempt to solve the obstacles they encountered when playing games, but there are actually many players like Eibhlin who cannot use traditional game controllers normally.

According to data from the Xbox official website, there are more than 450 million disabled gamers worldwide, and 180 million of them are unable to play video games comfortably.

The biggest obstacle for these players is often the game controller that does not belong to them. The emergence of Proteus uses a new product concept to re-give the answer to "barrier-free":

  • Inclusion: Ensure that all users can easily use the product.
  • Understandability: The product should be easily understood by all users.
  • Operation convenience: The operation interface and function design are simple and intuitive, and no in-depth study is required.
  • Adjustability: Users can adjust it according to their own needs to meet different individual differences.
  • Feedback: The product should provide users with timely feedback on whether the operation was successful.
  • Consistency: Equipment with different shapes and operations should maintain uniform game effects in terms of results.

Microsoft has been on the road to removing obstacles in games very early.

In 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which was least like a controller, was released. The 19 3.5mm interfaces on the top of the device made it possible for users to design a game console that best suits them.

"Time" magazine named the adaptive Xbox controller one of the "10 most influential technology products of the past decade."

In 2022, Microsoft launched an adaptive mouse component. Its rich scalability allows it to adapt to a variety of operations such as grasping, shaking, and clicking. The mouse is no longer limited to finger operations.

In addition to physical assistive devices, game manufacturers have gradually begun to research accessibility features for language, cognition, vision, mobility, and hearing.

No matter what type of player they are, their demands for gaming equipment are simple and consistent: smooth operation.

When a solution is designed only for those with certain abilities, it naturally becomes a barrier to another group.

Therefore, obstacles in the lives of disabled people often do not come from themselves, but from a set of "universal standards."

According to the 2023 Global Survey on Disability and Disasters published by the United Nations, people with disabilities account for 16% of the world's population.

This is a huge group and there is still a lot we can do and do.

And games are a good start.

No longer using a set of so-called "most people" standards, allowing everyone to passively adapt to them, and having equal access to every electronic device is the greatest significance of barrier-free devices.

Play with equal rights in convenient equipment and be respected in barrier-free operation.

As game designer Jesse Schell said in "The Art of Game Design: The Book of Perspectives":

It is everyone's nature to love to play, and everyone should have the right to enjoy games.

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