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Microsoft developing a new controller for the less able gamer: Meet the Xbox Adaptive Controller

As a blog that has always aimed to make technology understandable to the masses, we at Technically Motivated champion any attempt by a major corporation to create technology that caters for the less able user. So when we heard that Microsoft have unveiled an Xbox One controller designed with the differently-abled in mind, we naturally had to take a look.

A picture of the XBox Adaptive Controller

Image courtesy Microsoft
(click to enlarge)

Officially named the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft’s latest creation – which will actually support both XBox and Windows PCs – is billed as ‘the most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company’. As Microsoft tells it, When a customised controller from non-profit veterans’ organisation Warfighter Engaged caught the eye of a Microsoft engineer back in 2014, Microsoft decided to create its own disability-friendly controller for the following year’s Hackathon, which is where this project began. Refinements followed a year later; but it was the release of the Copilot function – which allows two Xbox One controllers to be treated as a single controller – that led Microsoft to declare their new controller concept ready for launch.

In fact, Copilot is actually the key to how this new controller becomes adaptable for a wide range of disabilities. Designed to be used on a desktop surface, the Xbox Adaptive Controller features all number of ports to allow additional controllers, headsets, switches and other assistive devices to expand on its base capabilities, allowing a user to create a custom gaming solution whereby a user can combine many different controls into a workable solution for their own body. The ports are labelled such that the user doesn’t need to turn or pick up the device to see what goes where; and each controller can function as one or more physical buttons according to the user’s needs. The Adaptive Controller itself sports two giant buttons, mapped to the A and B of a standard Xbox controller and with enough spacing to allow a hand to rest in between; along with a D-Pad and other smaller control buttons to the left side.

Microsoft have explained the full story behind the controller on their Story Labs, which also gives further details about the upcoming product. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will launch later this year, and will retail for $100 in the US, which is likely to translate to around £100 in the UK after the inclusion of VAT.

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    Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2

    A Surface Hub 2 on a stand, courtesy Microsoft

    Two years ago, Microsoft raised eyebrows when it unveiled the Surface Hub, a digital whiteboard that could handle anything from video conferences, to a shared workspace for working on documents. Despite being plagued with numerous delays to launch and being ridiculously expensive (exceeding $11,000 for even the smaller model plus stand), Microsoft now claims that there are 5,000 companies using Surface Hubs, including half of Fortune 100 companies – and apparently, sales have been good enough for Microsoft to announce a second version is in the works.

    Details are currently scarce regarding the Surface Hub 2, which isn’t planned to retail until 2019; although “selected customers” will be able to test the device later this year. At it’s heart, however, the new Hub is still a gigantic touchscreen-enabled display, which will run Windows 10 and support the Surface Pen. It also has thinner bezels, making it look more like a modern flatscreen TV, albeit one with a wider-than-average 3:2 aspect ratio. Surprisingly, it appears the built-in webcam is also out, meaning you’ll now need to plug in your own to start video conferences – which strikes us an odd move.

    Microsoft appear to be targeting the new Surface Hub as having more potential uses, with the thinner form factor making it easier to create a wall of surface hubs for wide digital displays. To that end, the company has released a Youtube video introducing the Hub 2, which shows off a number of interesting use concepts:

    Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2" /> Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2" />

    The device also contains a fingerprint sensor, so each user can protect their documents and data behind their own accounts and login with just a touch.

    No information is currently available on pricing or technical specifications. We’ll have more news when we get it!


    Microsoft: “Don’t live in the US? Would you like to not store your data there?”

    That is the question Microsoft are now asking all its non-American users, after implementing a new feature that will allow users of Microsoft services who registered as outside the United States to opt to have their data stored only on non-American soil.


    Microsoft have become what appears to be the first United States-based company to offer those outside the US the option to store their data off of American soil; and it isn’t too surprising given how vocal they’ve been against lack of user privacy in the United States. They’ve been very unhappy with the revelations given to us thanks to Edward Snowden over the fact that the NSA have been spying on American citizens. They are also unhappy with the fact that their own networks have been used to monitor citizens in countries like Brazil and all over Europe as well. It’s also possible that the move may perhaps have an additional role as a subtle middle-finger to the Syrian Electronic Army, who have repeatedly hacked their American servers in recent months.


    So far, Microsoft is the only major company offering explicitly non-US data storage, despite evidence that the NSA has also broken into the private networks of both Google and Yahoo.


    While there’s no guarantee the NSA won’t be able to reach servers outside US borders, the move would offer an additional layer of protection, as local law enforcement is likely to respond more aggressively to agents of a foreign country. This of course assumes that Microsoft are serious about their commitment to protect the interests of their customers globally; and not just an act to maintain loyalty with customers outside of the US. There’s also still the unanswered question of what happens when data is transit – data may not be STORED on US servers, but could it still pass through one or more of them when the data is transit – for example, whenever you use a different Microsoft service?


    We shall see… soon enough.

    [Cross-posted to Sanitarium.FM]


    Microsoft: Everyone can make XBox One Games – via XBox One

    The next generation of console gaming may have finally found its niche – as the generation that blurs the line between video game players and video game creators. That's according to a new announcement by Microsoft, which confirms – like Sony with the PS4 – that XBox One owners can use the next-gen console as their very own development kit.

    Xbox's corporate vice president Marc Whitten said that all Xbox Ones will function as development kits, which are usually only available to licensed developers. This will give everyone who owns an XBox One the tools to build their own XB1 games as part of the very system they're playing them on – a trend Ouya started with its independently-focused Android-based console; and subsequently adopted by Sony for the Playstation 4. To add to the appeal, reports spreading on the internet claim Microsoft will allow indie developers to self-publish on the Xbox One, though Microsoft are yet to comment on this part of the equation.

    UPDATE: However, the functionality WON'T be available immediately at the console's launch; it will be installed on all consoles at a later date.

    Here's Microsoft's official comment:

    Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox LIVE. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox LIVE. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at gamescom in August.

    Let me be the first to claim this day, Global Gamedev Independence Day 🙂


    Mark Whitten added in late-breaking news today that independently-published games will have just as much potential for exposure as professionally-published games, with Microsoft having no intention to separate the two from the future XBox Live Marketplace:

    "My goal is for it to just show up in the marketplace. Of course there will be different pivots inside of that. There will be everything from what are we curating, kind of like spotlight content, to the normal discoverability stuff like recommendations, what's trending, what's got a lot of engagement on the platform. And you'd be able to find that content in any of those. There wouldn't be any difference based on what type of game it was. Then of course there will be other type of pivots where you can go and look at whether its a genre of game or any other. But you shouldn't think of it as there's an indie area and a non-indie area.

    Just as today, where we will highlight things that are coming in on the service, we want to make that more discoverable. We'll make it things that we curate as well as the other ways that you find content whether that's what your friends are doing or what we recommend based on your play behaviour. Or top listings. We want to make sure we have all of those types of discoverability mechanisms."

    Microsoft are yet to comment on whether indie developers will experience any cost to their own pockets to acquire devkits or publish their games. But you WILL have full rights to charge for the games if you prefer; and pricing is aimed to be similar to today's Xbox 360 Marketplace.

    With little else revealed, Whitten says we'll have to wait to Gamescon to know the rest of the details. Stay tuned!


    Xbox One Game Prices Announced For UK

    Set to retail with an RRP of £49.99, compared to $59.99 in the States.

    Microsoft has announced Xbox One games in the UK will come with a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of £49.99.

    OXM spotted the prices on the company's online store, which currently lists Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5 and Kinect Sports Rivals for that price.

    Last month, Microsoft announced that first-party Xbox One games would be sold in North America for $59.99, which is the same price games are currently sold for there. In terms of the UK, it's worth remembering that retailers are likely to undercut Microsoft – in fact, Amazon is already listing Need for Speed Rivals at £43.99.

    Sony has yet to announce any UK pricing for its games, though the company has similarly confirmed an American price point of $59.99.

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]


    Fans Create Petition To Bring Back Xbox One DRM Policies

    Turns out the internet is not quite as united on the issue of DRM as we were led to believe. A fan by the name of David Fontenot has started a petition on claiming that “consumers were uninformed” during the initial outcry against the DRM policies that were announced with the new Xbox One.

    To review, when the Xbox One was initially announced at E3 in June, it was also announced that the Xbox One would have to log in via internet connection every 24 hours to verify ownership. If a log in was missed, gamers would not be able to use their consoles to play games until a connection was re-established. Microsoft also talked about their game sharing and trading policies, stating that games used games could be resold, given as gifts, and even resold to retailers, but this could only be done once per game license.

    And as they are wont to do, gamers got a bit upset.

    After about two weeks of listening to their fans’ rage, Xbox announced that they would be repealing their DRM policies on the Xbox One, and the system would operate largely the same as the 360 does currently, with no online requirement and infinitely resell-able games. Unfortunately, along with the removal of DRM, came the loss of several features that were announced with the Xbox One, namely the ability to trade and resell digital licenses for games, and play your games on any Xbox One.

    What really needs to happen here is that both parties need to step back, take a deep breath, and really look at what each side is asking for. Xbox made a serious misstep in their initial release statement by claiming that “every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection”, and not highlighting that it is the DRM policies that allowed several of their notable new features to operate. This situation exacerbated by Phil Spencer’s sarcastic claim that “We have a product for people who can’t access the internet, it’s called Xbox 360”.

    The fan response could have been a little more controlled as well. Any appearance of the letters DRM these days seems to cause an immediate, visceral reaction in gamers, leading to copious quantities of “nerd rage” and not a lot of well thought out research and reasoned discussion. Perhaps a calm complaint would have elicited a more informative response from the executives at Microsoft, than the wave of outrage that was put forward.

    So where do you stand on the Xbox One DRM policies? Do you want the many-featured, but DRM restricted Xbox? Or are you in the DRM free, but less innovative camp? Let us know in the comments below, or over in the forums. To check out the petition, head over to


    [Via Sanitarium.FM]


    Microsoft U-Turn on XBox One Plans

    When the XBox One was revealed at E3 earlier this month, many details were revealed about the console that caused widespread criticism of the console by both players, press and gaming journalists alike. I'm sure by now you've read the myriads of articles about it; but if not, here's a quick recap: The console would require an internet connection every 24 hours to check validity of licences to play any games stored on the console (possibly being unusable for gaming if a connection could not be established); used games could only be transferred to a new owner once; reactivating a third-hand game would cost a fee and games could not be resold for less than 90% of their original value (meaning buying used games could end up MORE expensive than buying them new); and so on.

    After soon being followed by Sony's announcement of the PS4 allowing full sharing of disk-based games just by giving the game away like you would do today, lack of online requirement and £100 lower price tag, Microsoft were looking like real losers in this year's "console wars" (an endearing term given by the media to explain the concept of gaming consoles battling for control of the market by selling the most consoles). Even Nintendo got a pot shot in, with Satoru Iwata revealing in an interview his view on controlling the trade of used games:

    "The best possible countermeasure against people buying used product is making the kind of product that people never want to sell. Taking as an example Mario Kart or Smash Bros., even though you might think, 'I’ve done enough with this,' you’ll still have second thoughts. 'Wait a minute. If one of my friends comes over, I might need this again.' You’re never going to want to sell these games. That’s something that always occupies our minds. We need to make software that players don’t want to sell."

    It seems Microsoft have finally thrown in the towel and admitted their plans to control usage of their console AND trade of used games just isn't going to work. Today, in an official posting on XBox Wire, Microsoft announced a complete reversal of their strategy, ditching the online requirement and removing control over used games.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Microsoft gets 561 million euro fine for missing browser ballot “oversight”

    In 2009, an antitrust agreement in Europe ruled that Microsoft weren’t playing fair with internet browsers. By including Internet Explorer into Windows by default; making their own software prefer to use it over alternative browsers; and not providing an easy mechanism to get alternative browsers, the European Union (EU) decided that Microsoft was abusing its widespread use on European computers to favour its own internet browser. As a result, Microsoft were fined $1.44 billion US Dollars; but that’s not all. They also agreed that for five years, Microsoft would have to offer a Browser Choice screen to European users of Windows, providing a choice of the five major browsers and a reasonable amount of other alternatives, so that EU customers could choose how THEY wanted to access the internet; and if they wanted to choose other than Internet Explorer, could find out more about or quickly download any of the alternatives.

    Browser Ballot Screen

    An example of the “Browser Ballot” screen Microsoft implemented to provide European customers the required choice of browser.

    For a long time, Microsoft honoured this promise. But when Windows 7 SP1 was released over a year ago, a series of complaints – now known to have included reports from Google and Opera – were submitted to the EU claiming the ballot was no longer being shown. After discovering it had been gone for 16 months, Microsoft claimed the problem to be a “technical error” and restored it – but according to the EU, this resulted in 15 million Windows users not seeing the ballot box and instead defaulting to Internet Explorer, which broke the agreement.

    Today, the EU fined Microsoft for breaching the agreement, ordering them to pay 561 million Euros (approximately $732 million US Dollars, or £487.7 million British pounds) for the “mistake” – which may not sound like a lot for a multi-billion-dollar company, but actually accounts for 3% of Microsoft’s profits for the entire 2012. Microsoft, for its part, has claimed it will not appeal the fine and takes all responsibility, offering this quote:

    “We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it. We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.”

    This has got to be one of the more expensive “technical errors” in recent tech world history.


    Microsoft announces TWO own-brand Windows 8 ‘Microsoft Surface’ tablets

    Microsoft have made it clear during development of the next version of their popular Windows operating system, Windows 8, that the company is looking to expand beyond the traditional PC market and offer "one system for any device", including Tablet computers and phones. To this extent, Windows 8 is being developed in two distinct flavours and a number of sub-flavours – as well as the traditional Windows builds PC users will be long familiar with, Microsoft are also developing Windows 8 RT (short for Runtime), which is a version of Windows geared specifically towards ARM-powered devices (a first for the company) and designed to give a more mobile-centric feel, with focus on an App Store and iPad-like functionality.

    Naturally, many people expected Microsoft would announce they had been working on their OWN tablet device to sell at the time of Windows 8's launch in order to give this new system a fit-for-purpose home – and on a mystery press conference by Microsoft, held in Los Angeles, these suspicions were confirmed correct. However, the company surprised everyone by revealing that there will actually be TWO tablets, one for each Windows experience.

    CEO Steve Ballmer revealed the two variants of Microsoft tablets, dubbing them 'Microsoft Surface' tablets. Surface for Windows RT will be the entry-level version, released on or around Windows 8's launch. Powered by an ARM-based chip produced by NVIDIA, this will run the RT version of Windows 8 and is intended as more of an iPad competitor. It comes with a 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display and a 31.5 W-h battery and there is a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of storage on board. As for expansion, you'll get one each of HDMI, microSD and USB connectivity – although interestingly, it supports only USB 2.0.

    The real eye candy is expected to be released around 90 days after Windows 8's launch according to Microsoft's own press release, and is known as Windows 8 Pro. Unlike the RT, Windows 8 Pro is Intel-based and intended to be a full-blown desktop Windows experience like you'd get on a traditional computer, but within the smaller and sleeker form factor of a tablet. The Windows 8 Pro tablet packs a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display with Gorilla Glass, USB 3.0, a 42 W-h battery, and a choice of either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage; with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor powering it.

    Both tablets will come with an extra dubbed the "Touch Cover". Intended to be used as a cover for the tablet's screens when not in use and as a work surface when in use, the Touch Covers feature a wireless keyboard and trackpad, which when connected to the tablet via a magnetic clip allow the tablet to be used in a style more akin to the traditional laptop. Only 3mm thick, the Touch Covers contain "unique pressure-sensitive technology" which allow them to "sense keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard"; and will be available in a variety of colours. The tablets also come with an integrated kickstand to help you stand them up vertically on surfaces; and dual wi-fi antennae for wireless connectivity.

    With the announcement of these two new tablets Microsoft expects to give iPad and the Android tablets a run for their money. The fact that these tablets run Windows is a huge advantage, if leveraged properly by Microsoft, over rival competition because of the ability to create a harmonious ecosystem with our traditional computers – and they certainly do appear an exciting prospect for both users and developers. However, it is really up to the future to decide whether the Microsoft tablets will live on or die out.

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2012
    Acknowledgements: Image Courtesy Engadget; fair use.
    Some Rights Reserved

    Rumour: Microsoft phasing out Microsoft Points


    A rumour making the rounds today is Microsoft will phase out its Microsoft Points currency by year's end, in favour of real currency. According to InsideMobileApps, the change will affect Windows Phone, the Zune Marketplace and Xbox Live.


    The site claims "a source" provided the information and notes that mobile developers with Microsoft publishing agreements are being told to plan their upcoming downloadable content and in-app purchases in accordance with the change. Finally, customers with Microsoft Point balances at the time of conversion will have it switched to the their local currency.


    Two developers we spoke to who are working on Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live content told us they hadn't heard anything about such a conversion. However, both noted that sometimes Microsoft doesn't tell them about major changes until it becomes need to know. They also hadn't heard whispers about the conversion until we contacted them.


    Checking in with Microsoft, a company spokesperson told us: "We do not comment on rumour or speculation."


    Update: Microsoft Switzerland has reportedly told that the rumour is not true. The Google translation is a bit confusing, but it roughly translates: "We can not confirm these rumours – we are currently satisfied with the current Xbox Live Business model."