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Here’s how Xbox’s Adaptive Controller is getting people with disabilities back into gaming

Vivek Gohil was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that destroys muscle tissue starting at the pelvis, when he was eight years old. Most 12-year-olds with the condition are in a wheelchair. In his teens, Gohil was bed bound for a year – which is where his love of computer games began.

“Lots of my hobbies involve gaming; it’s a form of social interaction,” he says. “Without gaming, it would be quite isolating.” Initially, he embraced action games, but as he got older – he’s now 27 – he switched to slower, more strategy-focused games. “Because of the nature of my disease, as I get older I get weaker,” he explains. “Over the years, it’s been getting harder to press the buttons and use the analogue sticks. It’s become impossible for me to use a normal gaming controller.”

Gohil’s gaming, however, has a new lease of life. He’s one of the early testers – via the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK – of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, the first inclusive mainstream controller.

About three years ago, Microsoft started working on a controller for the Xbox aimed specifically at gamers with disabilities. The idea was to create something that could channel different customisations, from buttons in a wheelchair headrest to controls triggered by knee or foot pressure. The result is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a simple, almost old-school white box with two large programmable black buttons and a smaller steering button. The controller’s secret? It has 19 3.5mm input jacks and two USB ports at the back, which effectively offer open-source access for any third-party device to perform any controller function.

“Our [standard] controller has been optimised over the years around a primary use case – two thumbs and two index fingers,” says Bryce Johnston, inclusive lead for product researcher and accessibility at Microsoft Hardware. “For some people, the controller is a barrier to playing.” In order to learn about the limitations some gamers have, the company partnered with charities including the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Warfighter Engaged, The AbleGamers Foundation and SpecialEffect, which builds custom controllers for gamers with disabilities.

The design may look simple, says Chris Kujawski, senior industrial designer for Xbox, but every detail has been carefully refined. The slight tilt of the controller’s surface and rounded edge was introduced after gamers found an earlier iteration too sharp and hard to rest on. After discovering that some gamers use a lapboard secured with Velcro to play on, the team added three threaded inserts so that the controller can be mounted with industry-standard hardware to a wheelchair, lapboard or desk. Even the packaging is designed to be simple to open.

“I think the controller as a whole, being as flexible as it is, is a sign of how seriously Microsoft took their research and the work already done by others in game accessibility,” says Bill Donegan, projects manager at SpecialEffect. “Details such as the additional switch ports ‘X1’ and ‘X2’ mean that you can use customised personal inputs such as joystick directions without losing the option to use other switches for standard buttons. It is highly customisable.”

Lauren West, who manages Muscular Dystrophy UK’s youth campaign group Trailblazers, says it’s good to see a mainstream product designed for accessibility. “It’s usually charities adapting products off the shelf,” she says. “The games industry hasn’t been hugely supportive – some companies have been locking out customised controllers.”

For Microsoft, inclusivity comes with a business advantage. Roughly 1.5 million young people under the age of 24 are dealing with a disability, as are some 2.6 million 25-44 year olds – the core gaming demographics. Research by Muscular Dystrophy UK found that 60 per cent of disabled under-24s listed gaming as their favourite or most frequent pastime. “It’s an arena where they can play with any other kid on equal terms,” explains West. “As there’s increasingly limited care hours, they struggle to leave the house, so games provide a good opportunity to interact socially.”

In July, Jen Beeston at the University of York published research on how gamers with disabilities play. The team spoke to 230 gamers managing a wide range of disabilities, including upper or lower limb disabilities, autism, learning disabilities and visual or hearing impairments. They found that around half played between two and four hours at a time while 25 per cent played for more than five hours at a sitting.

The gamers’ favourite titles was roughly the same as any other group of gamers. The only difference? The platform. PCs were the most popular, with over half the group choosing PCs. Some customised their gaming setups, including using customised controllers, mice, subtitles and key remapping. Microsoft’s new controller can also be plugged in to PC games.

There’s more to the Adaptive Controller than business, though. The new controller sprang from Microsoft’s annual hackathon event in 2015, when a group of employees experimented with a device for gamers with disabilities. The prototype drew praise across the company – including from chief executive Satya Nadella, whose son Zain was born in 1996 with cerebral palsy and who has spoken about how technology needs to be inclusive.

Gohil now uses the controller to play Forza, using the left analog stick of a regular controller via the co-pilot accessibility feature to steer the car, a chin switch to accelerate and a right head switch for braking. He has two knee switches stuck to the bottom of the table to press the Rewind button and Challenge button. “Before I tested the device, I was completely unable to play Forza using a regular controller, but when I found the perfect switch setup I managed to win multiple races,” he says. “It was an amazing experience to hand me back the controller I never thought I’d ever hold again. The whole gaming industry needs to take a lesson and understand that a large minority of gamers have a disability. It’s important that they listen to everyone.”



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Best Mid Range Smartphone

The best mid range Smartphone phone of 2018 reviewed and rated

What constitutes as the best ‘mid-range’ phone has changed rather dramatically in recent years. With flagship phones like the iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comfortably pushing passed the £1000 mark, from a price perspective the goalposts have undoubtedly shifted in the same direction. So here are a comprehensive list of Best Mid Range Smartphone , click on the associated link to purchase or view Moree information too.  All us content creators ensure we bring you the very latest news and information in the world of tech and its new. So want to see what other have to offer after this post. Well head over to the following site, which I personally use too.

At the same time, there are new handsets taking a fresh approach – offering the best possible hardware at the lowest possible price – that also fit within what we would consider mid-range in 2018; handsets like the Pocophone F1, which offer flagship specs without the price-tag.

With these factors in mind, here you’ll find a rundown of phones that we think offer the best bang for your buck while costing around half as much as you would expect to pay for a 2018 flagship.

How we select the best budget smartphones

Just as with any of our other ‘best smartphone’ roundups, this list is designed to reflect the best that the current smartphone market has to offer based on constraints like price and feature-set. We review every phone we consider before it can be placed in a line-up such as this, slipping our SIM cards in and using each phone as our main device solidly for a week at the very minimum.

We test claims on performance and battery life with both real-world and artificial benchmarks, we trial new features and cast a scrutinous eye over every facet and flaw that these phones might possess, all in the pursuit of providing a clear, concise review of the latest smartphone to make your buying decision as easy as possible.

OnePlus 6T Best Mid Range Smartphone

Best Mid Range Smartphone
£409.95 View at eBay
£439.00 View at Amazon
£469.00 View at OnePlus

Pros

  • A huge leap in OnePlus design
  • Seriously fast
  • Fast Charge is still great
  • A well thought-out version of Android with great extras

Cons

  • Camera still needs improvement
  • Missing a few ‘flagship’ features

The OnePlus 6T is arguably the phone that demonstrates just how much OnePlus as a company has grown up in its short lifespan. While at the upper end in this mid-range roundup, starting at £499, the OnePlus 6T feels practically as much of a flagship as any iPhone or top-tier Samsung does.

Not only does it adopt a beautiful metal and glass design, and a notch-laden extended display, just like the rest of 2018’s flagships, it also offers some of the best smartphone performance on the market. There’s a cleanly-skinned Android 9.0 Pie experience with some meaningful tweaks and the company’s excellent Fast Charge technology. Making out one of the Best Mid Range Smartphone

The primary cameras are also a massive improvement on their predecessors, even if they still lag slightly behind the best in the business. There’s no headphone jack, however OnePlus has added a slick in-display fingerprint scanner that’s the final futuristic feature.

Pocophone F1

Best Mid Range Smartphone
£275.00 View at eBay
£310.00 View at Amazon Marketplace
£320.00 View at Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Superb performance
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Decent cameras

Cons

  • MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
  • Thick bezels
  • Plastic build
  • No NFC

Being supported by Chinese tech giant Xiaomi’s manufacturing infrastructure has allowed new player Pocophone to make a serious splash with its first handset, the Pocophone F1. For around $/£300 you get a liquid-cooled Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with at least 6GB of RAM, a huge 4000mAh battery, a decent notched Full HD+ display and a surprisingly good pair of AI-enhanced main cameras making this also one of the Best Mid Range Smartphone

The MIUI for Poco skinned Android experience will take a little getting used for anyone who hasn’t used a Xiaomi phone before, but the price/performance balance this handset strikes borders on astonishing.

It comes in three polycarbonate finishes (red, blue or black) or, if you’re willing to fork out a little more cash, the Kevlar-backed ‘Armored Edition’ seen above.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)

Pros

  • Great OLED screen
  • Solid value
  • Ultra-wide camera is fun

Cons

  • Weak GPU
  • Slow charging and no USB-C

The Samsung Galaxy A7  is a lower-cost alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. It’s a compelling choice with some neat extras including an extra ultra-wide camera and a strong OLED screen; two things you’d rarely normally find at this price.

This is far from a gaming phone, though. The Galaxy A7 has a solid CPU, but its graphics chipset is among the weakest in this class and we’d recommend something else if you love mobile gaming.

The ultra-wide secondary camera is a great feature too, giving some variety to the shots you take. The main camera is perfectly adequate, especially at the £309 price.

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Honor 10

£324.99 View at eBay
£289.00 View at Appliances Direct
£289.00 View at Laptopsdirect

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Powerful hardware
  • Good value

Cons

  • EMUI Android skin is bloated
  • Some performance bugs

Honor has released a lot of great value-for-money smartphones in 2018 but its latest flagship, the Honor 10, is the best. It’s a stylish and capable smartphone that gives you most of what the pricier Huawei P20 does for under £400.

You get dual AI-enhanced cameras set within the phone’s eye-catching ‘Aurora’ reflective glass back, fast charging and the same Kirin 970 processor that powers Huawei’s current top smartphones, complete with NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-based tasks.

The company’s EMUI software experience is highly customisable but might be the biggest issue as it also brings with it a few bugs and a little slow-down from time to time. Nothing some focussed software updates can’t fix, though.

Nokia 7 Plus

£246.25 View at eBay
£279.95 View at John Lewis

Pros

  • Big, bright screen
  • Impressive battery life
  • Android One has potential

Cons

  • Lots of app crashes and software bugs
  • Could do with some design tweaks

A big display, a big battery, lossless optical zoom on its primary dual camera and a clean and up-to-date Android One experience make the Nokia 7 Plus an easy recommendation.

One of HMD Global’s best phones since licensing the Nokia brand, the Nokia 7 Plus left us pleasantly surprised by what it brought to the table, considering it can be had for under £350. The polycarbonate body of the Plus comes with the Nokia line’s signature copper accents, helping it stand out from the crowd. There’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor too.

The Snapdragon 660 processor is more conservative than what the majority of phones in this lineup come packing, but paired with clean Android One software onboard, this phone feels just as fast and fluid as any more premium handset. Don’t forget to share this post if you found it useful. Best Mid Range Smartphone

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