Amidst the fanciful flying cars and smart dog collars of CES 2023, Sony used their time at the Las Vegas technology show to announce Project Leonardo: a highly adaptive PS5 controller kit designed, much like the Xbox Adaptive Controller, to make it easier for people with disabilities to play games. Unlike the standard PS5 DualSense controller, however, Project Leonardo won’t be compatible with the PC when it eventually launches.
In a response to tech site Digital Trends, Sony Interactive Entertainment confirmed that the kit – which allows for extensive customisation of button layouts and joystick positioning – will be built exclusivly for the PS5, with no native support for the PC or older consoles like the PS4.
“Project Leonardo was designed from the ground up to seamlessly integrate with PS5 from a hardware and software standpoint,” the statement reads. “We wanted to create the best, most cohesive and customizable play experience possible, so we decided to focus our efforts and resources on PS5.”
This will apparently be the case even for PC ports of games that originally released on the PS5, like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Naughty Dog’s upcoming The Last of Us Part 1. Which is unfortunate, as Project Leonardo looks like a fine idea, and one that could greatly help those who struggle with (or outright can’t use) mouse, keyboard, or conventional gamepad controls.
Despite the lack of visual similarities with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, it follows a similar ethos that the greater the adaptability, the more useful it is as an accessible device. The ability to completely change around button layouts, swap out joystick designs, and use in tandem with a DualSense pad (or another Leonardo model) means that a wider variety of possible disabilities can be countered, all according to a user’s individual needs. The unit also includes four 3.5mm ports, for connecting third party and custom-made buttons or switches. Sony say Project Leonardo has been designed with feedback from gaming accessibility organisations AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up, the former two having previously worked with Microsoft on the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
I won’t claim to know the technical innards of Project Leonardo, though considering how a) the DualSense controller works on anything from a beefy Windows desktop to the Steam Deck and b) the point of an adaptive controller is to help as many people as possible, it’s a shame that it will be limited to a single games console. At the same time, this will be the first real adaptive controller for the PS5 itself, so it could still do plenty of good in serving an underserved community of players.