An assistive controller kit that can be tailored to the user’s specific needs has been designed to remove barriers in gaming and help players with disabilities play more easily, comfortably, and for longer periods on PlayStation 5 (PS5) gaming consoles.
At CES 2023, PlayStation announced the next step in its journey to make gaming more accessible: Project Leonardo for PS5. The new assistive controller kit has been developed with key contributions from accessibility experts, community members, and game developers.
The controller aims 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.
Through conversations with accessibility experts and organisations like AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and Stack Up, PlayStation has designed a thoroughly configurable controller.
The controller works in tandem with many third-party accessibility accessories and integrates with the PS5 console to “open up new ways of gaming”.
Some of the key features include:
Personalised play experience
Project Leonardo for PS5 enables gamers to craft their own play experience. It includes a robust kit of swappable components, including a variety of analogue stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes.
Players can use these components to craft a wide array of control layouts. The distance of the analogue stick from the game pad can be adjusted to suit the player’s preference. These components allow players to find a configuration that works for their strength, range of motion, and particular physical needs.
On the PS5 console, players have an array of options to tailor their Project Leonardo play experience. These include button mapping, where the controller’s buttons can be programmed to any supported function and multiple buttons can be mapped to the same function. Conversely, players can map two functions (like “R2” + “L2”) onto the same button.
Control profiles also allows players to store their programmed button settings as control profiles and easily switch between them by pressing the profile button. Up to three control profiles can be stored and accessed by the player from their PS5 console at any time.
Works collaboratively with other devices and accessibility accessories
Project Leonardo can be used as a standalone controller or paired with additional Project Leonardo or DualSense wireless controllers.
Up to two Project Leonardo controllers and one standard DualSense wireless controller can be used together as a single virtual controller, allowing players to mix and match devices to fit their particular gameplay needs, or to play collaboratively with others.
For example, players can augment their DualSense controller with a Project Leonardo controller or use two Project Leonardo controllers on their own. A friend or family member can also assist by helping to control the player’s game character with a DualSense controller or a second Project Leonardo controller.
The controllers can be dynamically turned on or off and used in any combination.
Project Leonardo is expandable through four 3.5mm AUX ports to support a variety of external switches and third-party accessibility accessories. This enables users to integrate specialty switches, buttons, or analogue sticks with the Project Leonardo controller. The external accessories can be dynamically connected or disconnected, and each can be configured to act like any other button.
Flexible, adaptable design
Project Leonardo’s split, symmetric design allows players to reposition the analogue sticks as close together or as far apart as they like.
The controller lies flat and does not need to be held, so players can lay it on a tabletop or wheelchair tray. It can be easily secured to AMPS mounts, an industry-standard mounting screw pattern for attaching devices to equipment, including accessibility equipment or tripods, and can be oriented 360 degrees for the most comfortable use.
Players can also programme the “north” orientation on the analogue sticks to match their preferred controller orientation.
So Morimoto, Sony Interactive Entertainment Designer, shared some insights on how his team approached the design of Project Leonardo: “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.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Project Leonardo:
Following a report that claims one in three people are unable to play video games due to inaccessibility, a games controller by Xbox was released in 2018, aiming to make video games more accessible.
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