Xbox One Gets ‘Copilot’ Mode

Microsoft has unveiled a Copilot mode for the Xbox One that lets two players act as if they were using a single controller. It’s designed mainly for people with disabilities, but could also be useful for introducing less experienced players.

The new mode is part of a package of updates to the system, including a new shortcut menu. There’s also a big change to the Xbox Insider program that lets players test future updates.

Copilot involves two controllers but the inputs are treated as if they came from the same controller, a little like dual controls in a driving instructor car. The main intended use is for players with disabilities who can’t use a single controller with both their hands, but could input using another combination of body parts such as one foot and one hand, or one hand and a chin.

However, Microsoft notes the technology could have other uses such as parents wanting to play games with children who might struggle with more complicated controls. Anyone who’s ever helped a pre-schooler steer a Wiimote to play Mario Kart and then accidentally poked them in the face while trying to reach to hit the brake button will know how useful this would be. (That’s a purely hypothetical example, of course.)

There’s also scope for designers to specifically take advantage of co-operative controls. For example, two players controlling a single character in a new Portal game could be interesting – or perhaps even more of a relationship destroyer than the existing co-op play.

The update will also include a revamp to the Xbox’s Home screen, designed to cut the number of button presses to perform the task in hand. There’ll also be more features on the Guide [pictured], the screen which overlays during gameplay when you press the Xbox button. This includes a new shortcut with Guide + either X or Y starting a recording.

Members of the Insider Program get advance access to such updates, but that’s also in for a revamp. They – and new applicants – will be put into four ranks, dubbed Alpha, Beta, Ring 3 and Ring 4, with different levels of access. Which ring you’re in will depend on how much testing you actually do of the new features and how much feedback you give.

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