Sony joins Microsoft in offering players with disabilities a way to play games more easily.
Photo of a round almost flat PlayStation 5 controller with several accessibility options. The outside edge of the controller feature large, easy to press white buttons. The middle is black and looks like another big button. The bottom has a large joystick attached to the controller. Each button has a symbol on it like those found on typical PlayStation 5 DualSense controllers.

In late 2018, Microsoft launched the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This controller was designed for those with disabilities, making user input far easier than a traditional controller. The Xbox Adaptive Controller launched at $99.99 (USD) and allowed for a huge variety of assistive input devices to be connected.

Though it doesn't seem as though the Xbox Adaptive Controller was ever officially discontinued, you may have a difficult time finding one to purchase. At a quick glance, I'm only seeing the Xbox Adaptive Controller available for purchase at Best Buy and Target. Still, even with some limited availability, this was one area where Microsoft had a big advantage over PlayStation. That is, until today.

At CES, Sony announced a new PlayStation 5 controller that they are calling Project Leonardo. This is the codename given to a new and highly customizable controller kit that will work "'out of the box' to help many players with disabilities play games more easily, more comfortably, and for longer periods."

Sony says that they have had input from several accessibility experts and organizations such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and StackUp while creating Project Leonardo. The main focus of Project Leonardo is to help overcome many of the challenges those with limited motor control typically experience while trying to play games.

Just like with Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller, Project Leonardo will be highly customizable. There will be a "robust kit of swappable components" and will also feature several different analog stick caps and buttons in a variety of shapes and sizes. On the software side with the PlayStation 5, buttons can be remapped to different functions. Multiple buttons can also be mapped to the same function or multiple functions can be mapped to a single button. There will also be different controller profiles that you can store to your specific user profile, with the ability to save up to three controller profiles per user profile.

Sony also notes that a Project Leonardo controller can be used effectively on its own or it can be paired with additional Project Leonardo or DualSense wireless controllers to form a big, single virtual controller.

Third-party accessories can also be connected to Project Leonardo through four 3.5mm AUX ports. Just like the other buttons on Project Leonardo, these external options can be configured any which way and can be dynamically connected or disconnected on the fly.

Sony also says that due to the "split, symmetric design," Project Leonard will allow players to reposition the analog sticks as close together or as far apart as they like. The controller lies flat if placed on a table and does not need to be held. There will also be ways to mount Project Leonardo to AMPS mounts or tripods.

Pricing and a launch date have not yet been provided, but Sony says that they will have more details "in the future." And why "Project Leonardo?" My guess is because the design somewhat resembles Leonardo da Vinci's fighting vehicle (if you were to look at it from above) combined with some elements from Leonardo's octant projection for maps.

Click image for larger version

Name:	52608039108_2551038306_h.jpg
Views:	111
Size:	76.7 KB
ID:	3521733Click image for larger version

Name:	52607542421_d2be52b46c_h.jpg
Views:	113
Size:	96.9 KB
ID:	3521734Click image for larger version

Name:	52607543071_dd9dcaa3aa_h.jpg
Views:	114
Size:	62.8 KB
ID:	3521735

"Project Leonardo is part of the PS5 product family and is based on the same design concept. We were inspired by the idea of all players enjoying the world of PlayStation together. 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.

"Because players can customize Project Leonardo according to their needs, there is no one ‘right’ form factor. We want to empower them to create their own configurations. The controller can also flexibly accept combinations of accessibility accessories to create a unique aesthetic. I am excited that the design will be completed through collaboration with players rather than presenting them with a single form factor."

– So Morimoto, Designer, Sony Interactive Entertainment​