Sony is building a better PlayStation 5 controller with Project Leonardo, a kit that promises to make games easier to play for people with limited motor control. In initial images, Project Leonardo is a set of circular gamepads lined with buttons and directional input methods, all of it customizable. Sony says the system will work “out of the box” with the PS5, allowing players to craft their ideal gamepad by mapping buttons, swapping out hardware bits and creating distinct profiles.
Project Leonardo can be used on its own or paired with DualSense controllers — up to two Leonardos and one DualSense can be read as one gamepad by the PS5. This grants players flexibility and also allows other people to help control games.
The hardware includes four 3.5mm AUX ports to accommodate a variety of existing accessibility accessories and switches. The controller itself lies flat on a table or can be mounted on a tripod; it doesn’t need to be held. Sony partnered with a handful of organizations, including AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up, while designing Project Leonardo.
With Project Leonardo, Sony is taking clear cues from Microsoft, which has been a leader in accessibility tech, particularly in the gaming space. Microsoft released the Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018 and it had many of the same selling points as Sony’s new endeavor, but in a longer and flatter package. Microsoft has a new laboratory focused on building inclusive hardware and a five-year plan to improve the technology landscape for people with disabilities.
One of the major draws of the Xbox Adaptive Controller is its price, which was also designed to be accessible: $100. There’s no word on how much Project Leonardo will cost; there’s also no release window.
On the PlayStation Blog, Sony designer So Morimoto described Project Leondardo as follows: “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.”
There was more positive news for the PS5 out of Sony’s CES press conference today — PlayStation head Jim Ryan declared an official end to the PS5 shortage, saying, “Everyone who wants a PS5 should have a much easier time finding one at retailers globally starting from this point forward.” That should is doing a lot of heavy lifting, of course.