Sony has revealed a new PlayStation 5 controller intended to help players with disabilities access PlayStation games more easily, currently called Project Leonardo.
It was part of the brand’s hour-long Consumer Electronics Show presentation, and represents a major step towards accessibility in gaming from PlayStation.
Project Leonardo was designed in collaboration with disability advocacy and support groups to provide a controller that easier to use for players with reduced motor control or strength, is highly customizable, and can operate in tandem with other devices.
This is achieved through every aspect of the controller’s design, starting with that novel “UFO” shape which allows the controller to be placed flat on a surface — or attached to the commonly found AMPS mount on a wheelchair — so that the player doesn’t need to constantly hold it.
An adjustable-length arm houses an analog stick which can be customized both to different stick types and to set where the “north” (up) direction is. That all allows players to have a hand position that is comfortable for them, rather than a standardized layout.
Each of the nine buttons — eight around the edge and the centre pad itself — can be mapped to any of the PlayStation 5 DualSense buttons, even allowing for the same function to be mapped to multiple buttons.
The peripheral buttons each feature a large pad, approximately the size of the DualSense’s central touch pad, but these too can be swapped out for larger buttons or switches with different contours to suit the player. There’s even a double-button pad, allowing players to hit two buttons with one press.
There’s also four 3.5mm Aux ports which allow players to plug in further devices, such as existing specialist buttons or analog sticks.
Players can also pair two Leonardo devices together if necessary, and use both and a standard DualSense simultaneously as a single device. That gives players a wide range of options, including allowing for other players to assist if required with the regular controller.
PlayStation is still developing the Project Leonardo device, and its design may change pending further testing and feedback. That means it may be a while until we see it come to market, but for players with disabilities it can’t come soon enough.
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