Microsoft prototypes Xbox controllers for mobile devices

"Our vision is a mobile gaming controller which can be used standalone and across a variety of devices"
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Microsoft is developing Xbox controllers for mobile devices.

Further to Microsoft's announcement that it was moving into the game streaming service with Project xCloud, the firm is looking to develop controllers that can be appended to mobile phones and tablets to bring "console quality" gaming to our portable devices.

A Microsoft research paper (via WindowsCentral) entitled "Demo: A Versatile Controller Concept for Mobile Gaming" - written by a UK team comprising of John Helmes, Stuart Taylor, and Steve Hodges, and Chris Lovett from Microsoft Research Redmond - details the rise of touchscreen controls and explores "traditional gaming experiences on mobile devices by incorporating tactile input controls". Then, using "anecdotal feedback" from gamers as far back as 2012, the team designed and built a prototype accessory concept.

"As smartphones and tablets have become pervasive, so has mobile gaming," the paper says. "Not surprisingly, popular games for these platforms are focused on touchscreen-based interaction. However, many types of game are less well-suited to mobile devices. Despite systems like AdaptControl which can adapt to the 'drift' typically occurring when using virtual on-screen controls, touchbased emulations of traditional gaming controls like Dpads, buttons & joysticks are often unsatisfactory."

Credit: Microsoft Research

Credit: Microsoft Research

"Mobile gaming devices like the Sony PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's DS and Switch are dedicated mobile gaming platforms which overcome these limitations via physical controls," Microsoft adds. "The success of the Switch is testament to the value of mobile gaming with physical controls. A number of cheaper products allow a smartphone to be clipped into or onto a modified handheld gaming controller; these include the ION iCade mobile, the GameCase, the GameVice and products from Moga. However, the fixed form of these accessories means they are bulky and inflexible."

As you might expect, much of this remains theoretical and controllers are unlikely to appear in retailers any time soon, but it's interesting that Microsoft is looking for solutions beyond touchscreen functionality.

To read the full document, head to the Microsoft Research website.

Project xCloud - for which closed trials are now underway - uses Xbox console components embedded into Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing centres to deliver console games to phones, tablets, and beyond.

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