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Sony’s new PS5 controller looks like a big leap for accessibility on PlayStation

Project Leonardo revealed at Sony’s CES 2023 conference

A product shot of a PlayStation 5 DualSense controller flanked by a pair of Project Leonardo controllers, each of which look like a joystick attached to a black and white flower. Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Sony revealed a brand-new controller for its PlayStation 5 on Wednesday, a device called Project Leonardo that aims at bring improved accessibility to players on PlayStation. The device, which can be paired with an existing DualSense controller or used on its own, is currently in development, and does not have a release date or price.

Project Leonardo was built, SIE senior vice president Hideaki Nishino said on the PlayStation Blog, “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.” The controller includes “a robust kit of swappable components, including a variety of analog stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes,” Nishino said.

A product image of the Project Leonardo controller for PS5, showing an array of swappable sticks, buttons, and input icons that can be added and removed from the device. Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

The new controller includes extensible button mapping and multiple control profiles. It’s also expandable, via four 3.5 mm auxiliary ports that support “a variety of external switches and third-party accessibility accessories. This enables users to integrate specialty switches, buttons or analog sticks with the Project Leonardo controller.”

Sony says it consulted with accessibility experts like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect, and military veteran support group Stack Up, to design the new controller. A video introducing the project features members from those groups and developers from PlayStation Studios, explaining more about the controller.

Project Leonardo is part of an ongoing effort at Sony to bring increased accessibility to PlayStation games and platforms. Over the past decade, developers like Insomniac Games, Naughty Dog, Santa Monica Studio, and Guerrilla Games have added and iterated upon accessibility features that offer options for players with limited motor control, vision and hearing disabilities, and motion sensitivity. Last year’s God of War Ragnarök included more than 70 accessibility features that let players tailor the experience to meet their needs.

Sony’s new controller also helps the PlayStation maker catch up to efforts that Microsoft brought to Xbox and Windows PC in 2018, with the release of the Adaptive Controller. That hardware, which costs $99.99, is compatible with a variety of add-ons and peripherals.

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