Sony has been embracing accessibility options in its games for a few years now, but one place it has lagged behind perennial rival Microsoft is in accessible hardware. They aim to change that with Project Leonardo, a new gaming controller aimed to be customizable to the needs of any person.
The device was described only generally on stage, but it appears to be a hub with swappable parts and plates that let users connect various other items, such as breath tubes, pedals, and switches of all kinds to activate different buttons.
Each UFO-shaped Project Leonardo device can handle an analog joystick plus 8 buttons, and they can be paired with each other or with a traditional controller to complement or offer alternatives to any function. Sony worked with accessibility groups AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up to make sure it was useful to a wide range of people.
“Our team tested over a dozen designs with accessibility experts, looking for approaches that would help address key challenges to effective controller use,” said Sony designer So Morimoto in a blog post. “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. The controller can also flexibly accept combinations of accessibility accessories to create a unique aesthetic.”
It’s similar to how Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller works — some stuff is built in, some you provide yourself. Everyone’s accessibility needs are a little different, and so it’s important to support the solutions people already have. Besides, that stuff is expensive!
Project Leonardo is currently being developed, so there’s no release date or price yet. We expect to hear more soon and will reach out to Sony to learn about their work in accessible hardware.