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Project Leonardo - What We Know So Far About PS5's Accessibility Controller

Video games have become a major part of modern culture and force for social connection. It has been noted that games can be a source of communion for people and provide vital social connection for many during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing (per BBC). Sadly, games have never quite been accessible to everyone, and many people with disabilities have found themselves cut off from these experiences. Thankfully, this is finally beginning to change as industry leaders and innovators take steps to address these issues.

From the dad who built a controller for his daughter to play "Breath of the Wild" to the inventor who developed tech for playing games with your face, more people are making games accessible and raising awareness about the need for greater effort in this area. Now, PlayStation is taking the next step in accessibility with a new controller, dubbed Project Leonardo.

In a January 2023 blog post, PlayStation unveiled the work-in-progress, which aims to make it possible for all players to get in on the fun. This new controller will maximize customization options, allowing for numerous possible button layouts, positions, and combinations of controllers to adapt to all sorts of needs.

Project Leonardo looks to make gaming more accessible than ever

PlayStation explains that it worked with "accessibility experts and incredible organizations like AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and StackUp" to design the controller. Some of these experts appeared in a short preview video to explain the benefits of the controller and its design.

Among these features are the ability to map buttons in any configuration, including assigning the same function to multiple buttons, or even assigning multiple functions to one button (for those who have difficulty pushing two buttons simultaneously). Leonardo also comes with alternative buttons and joysticks for even greater customization, as well as the option to pair with a second accessibility controller, a DualSense controller, and other third-party devices.

The controller is also designed so that it can be laid on a flat surface or mounted on a tripod or other device. This way, there's no need to physically hold the controller, and it can be positioned in any direction. Even the joystick is programmable, so any direction can be set as "up."

Together, these features are designed to accommodate as many people as possible, and every individual can program (and save) a configuration that works for them.

No word on when Project Leonardo will arrive

While it appears that a great deal of work has already been done on Project Leonardo, PlayStation states that it is still being refined and that there's no set release date yet. The designers want to "gather valuable feedback from the community" before finalizing the controller and setting a timetable for full production. 

Still, this should be an encouraging sign that the industry is continuing to make games more accessible. Xbox previously released its own Adaptive Controller, which apparently inspired Nintendo to look into doing the same. Xbox even has a patent on a controller that can provide Braille output, which could potentially see development in the future.

Project Leonardo joins these innovations and aims to push the envelope just a bit farther. Undoubtedly, many gamers will be excited to see how this project develops.