CES: Project Leonardo PS5 Controller Aims for Accessibility

Sony wants to make gaming inviting for all players, including those with limited mobility, and to that end unveiled at CES 2023 a customizable controller kit for PlayStation 5 codenamed Project Leonardo that the company has in development. The configurable controller aims “to help many players with disabilities play games more easily, more comfortably, and for longer periods.” The circular controller lets players create a personalized controller by mapping buttons, swapping hardware and creating personalized profiles. Though specifically designed for the PlayStation 5, it will work in tandem with many third-party accessibility accessories.

The device also has four 3.5mm auxiliary ports so that you can plug in third-party accessories that might be beneficial to you, and you can also use Project Leonardo in conjunction with a DualSense controller,” The Verge reports.

“The controller itself lies flat on a table or can be mounted on a tripod; it doesn’t need to be held,” Engadget writes.

Among the customizations detailed in Sony’s announcement:

  • Button mapping allows the controller’s buttons to be programmed to any supported function. Multiple buttons can be mapped to the same function. Conversely, players can map two functions (like “R2” + “L2”) on the same button.
  • Control profiles let players store their programmed button settings as control profiles, easily switching between up to three profiles by pressing the profile button.
  • Hardware customizations are possible using a robust kit of swappable components, including a variety of analog stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes. Using these, players can craft a wide array of control layouts. The distance of the analog stick from the game pad can be adjusted to suit the player’s preference.

Sony says Project Leonardo was created to address common challenges faced by many players with limited motor control, including difficulty holding a controller for long periods, accurately pressing small clusters of buttons or triggers, or positioning thumbs and fingers optimally on a standard controller. Organizations that offered input in the design phase include AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up.

“With Project Leonardo, Sony is taking clear cues from Microsoft, which has been a leader in accessibility tech, particularly in the gaming space,” Engadget writes, noting “Microsoft released the Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018.” Last year at its Ability Summit, Microsoft announced the opening of an Inclusive Tech Lab on its campus in Redmond, Washington.

Engadget says the Xbox Adaptive Controller retails for $100, while there’s “no word on how much Project Leonardo will cost” and no release date.

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