Sony Announces Project Leonardo, its Accessibility Controller for PlayStation 5

During CES 2023, Sony revealed Project Leonardo, its first accessibility controller. Designed to provide a customizable experience for the PlayStation ecosystem, Sony is aiming to make gaming more inclusive and break down barriers.

Project Leonardo was shown in a brief and broad capacity during its CES keynote. However, Sony took the time to release an in-depth blog, highlighting more of the new accessibility controller. The controller kit looks very much like a flying saucer. However, each controller includes swappable components. These include “a variety of analog stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes,” the company says.

The controllers are designed for those who may face challenges with motor control, mobility, or navigating a traditional controller for long periods of time. Project Leonardo provides an alternative to smaller, more compact button layouts, thumbstick positions, and ergonomics. Sony states the entire controller kit is customizable and players can even configure the distance of the analogue sticks from the gamepad to their preference.

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Project Leonardo can be used as a standalone controller. However, Sony confirms it can also be paired with additional Project Leonardo or DualSense controllers, depending on preference. Up to two Project Leonardo controllers and one DualSense wireless controller can be used together. This enables users to fully tailor their controller experience based on their needs. Each Project Leonardo controller is expandable through four 3.5mm AUX ports. The company confirms that each supports a variety of external switches and third-party accessibility accessories.

In the post, Senior Vice President of Platform Experience Hideaki Nishino states the company has developed Project Leonardo using contributions from accessibility experts, community members, and game developers. Sony is working with accessibility organizations such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up. Project Leonardo is very much Sony’s answer to Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller, which launched in 2018.

“We were inspired by the idea of all players enjoying the world of PlayStation together,” Sony designer So Morimoto says. “Our team tested over a dozen designs with accessibility experts, looking for approaches that would help address key challenges to effective controller use. We finally settled on a ‘split controller’ design that allows near free-form left/right thumbstick repositionability, can be used without needing to be held, and features very flexible button and stick cap swapping.”

Sony concludes by stating that Project Leonardo is still “currently in development.” Therefore, the company has not revealed when it is expected to be available to players globally nor what the cost of the controller kit will be. However, it’s refreshing to see Sony once again prioritize accessibility and enabling more players to get a chance to play so many beloved games.

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