MSFT Xbox One Controller

Background

Microsoft faced formidable challenges surrounding mechanical and electrical engineering designs for its new X-Box One Controller.  The requirement to incorporate haptic feedback directly into the triggers themselves for an improved user experience required a new, innovative approach to packaging components.  A-C was able to integrate all the required components needed for the enhanced user experience and still meet mandated size and ergonomic style requirements.  In addition, the controller had to go through several design iterations to embed batteries in an easily accessible compartment, with a snap-on cover.  This compartment and cover were constrained to reside within the seamless ergonomic ‘form and feel’ constraints specified by industrial design team.  Appearance was a paramount priority for Microsoft.  A-C went to great effort to hide screws and fasteners so that no exposed hardware elements were visible to consumers once the product was assembled.


The Project
  • Initial Study: A-C participated in early concept phases as well as formulating POC (proof of concept) for assembly, triggers, buttons, manufacturability, etc. Our team of engineers participated in analysis of possible industrial design variations before moving forward.
  • Design: We provided project management including collaboration with external industrial designers.  This required 25+ functional prototype variations over a 7 month period
  • Testing: Verification/validation was completed through extensive prototyping.
  • Manufacturing: A-C engineering staff participated in much domestic and international travel during the design phase as well as providing extensive support during ramp-up for the extreme high-volume manufacturing overseas.

Details
  • Concept to Production – From ID concept models to supporting early production issues on the factory floor – we supported the controller from concept to production
  • Design – Iterative refinement of industrial design. Collaborated with Microsoft ID, UX, and EE teams to produce quick turn functional models demonstrating different Industrial Design Languages
  • Engineering – Developed architectures for several areas of the controller:
    • Battery enclosure (internal)
    • Motorized Haptic Triggers
    • Fast-response D-pad
    • Hidden Fasteners
    • Each of these areas was developed through iteration between A-C mechanical designers and the ME managers and ID team at MS.
  • Design For Manufacturing – We refined the design so that it was capable of 10 million/year production

If you love the look, feel and touch of the new Xbox One controller, you can partly thank Andrews-Cooper.

The engineering firm with employees in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington was selected by Microsoft as lead outside engineer on the two-year Xbox One controller project.  “We were able to start from the very beginning and see the job through to the ultimate size, shape and feel,” explained Joe Harsany, VP of Product Engineering.  “The product architecture and compressed schedule were very challenging – but very rewarding as well.”

“It was the ideal project. Microsoft is an amazing company,” Harsany said.

The Microsoft design team had several ideas they wanted to prototype.  They relied on Andrews-Cooper to turn the industrial design concepts into functional prototypes.  According to Harsany it was an iterative process. “We would develop a prototype, Microsoft would test with users, and we would build another prototype based on their feedback.”  Once the final design was set, Andrews-Cooper dug into the details.  “That was really a huge challenge,” said Harsany.  “It’s like a game of Tetris.  As we fit the individual pieces together all the air inside the device was used up.”  The firm played an important role in defining the architecture, making sure all the bits and pieces could fit within the volume of the product, working with the contract manufacturers to get recommendations for manufacturability, and incorporating all of those considerations into the design. “The tolerancing on this product was really difficult.  It had to be functional, but also look great, with flawless seams and no gaps.  The devil is in the details.  We needed a design that didn’t have a lot of issues during production in Asia.”  Microsoft was manufacturing hundreds of thousands per week to meet the holiday demand.

“We were wondering when the manufacturer would call with a problem,” said Harsany.  “The manager never got a phone call.”

Microsoft hired Andrews-Cooper because of their work with other high tech manufacturers.  “They knew we had already proven ourselves on other projects,” Harsany explained.  “It was a terrific project to be involved with.”


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