Project Leonardo/ Access Controller

Sony Highlights Project Leonardo Through A Fireside Chat

Sony had launched a 20-minute fireside chat on their accessible controller, announced back in January as part of CES.

Led by Sr. Technical Program Manager Alvin Daniel and joined by Insomniac Games’ Accessibility Design Researcher Sam Schaffel and accessibility consultant Paul Lane. The trio discusses the peripheral currently codenamed Project Leonardo, which Daniel is adamant is not named after the leaping leader of the Ninja Turtles… I was so very wrong! Daniel was reading a biography of the second most famous Leonardo in gaming: Assassin’s Creed 2’s Leonardo Di Vinci. According to Daniel, Di Vinci’s spirit of experimentation and community involvement is an apt comparison for this controller.

Project Leonardo’s First Impressesion

Schaffel and Lane then discuss their first impressions of the futuristic circular satellite dish-looking controller, delivered to them in a secure briefcase with a code. Talk about prototype product security! Schaffel admits that the first iteration had some issues, which he does not disclose but says that Sony fixed them in the next iteration. Lane professes to opening the box, taking a long look at Project Leonardo… and needing instructions. However, he then drops some attractive adaptability by saying that as a person with quadriplegia for 30 years, it appealed to his developed sense of problem-solving, which we disabled people are extremely good at — humble brag! 

DualSense wireless controller alongside two Project Leonardo controllers, demonstrating option to pair a DualSense controller with up to two Project Leonardo controllers.

Daniel then touches on another thing disabled people deal with very well in unexpected discoveries. The way disabled people think about things and approach them often contradicts how non-disabled people do, thus leading to those unexpected discoveries.

Schaffel gets personal about how button caps [inputs] and joystick mapping have personally helped him think about configurations with his left-side cerebral palsy.

Daniel gets into the Sony team’s response to the feedback of Schaffel, Lane, and all of the other consultants involved in the project. It is one of Sony’s more extensive testing programs, with pre-launch testing in the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom. “Play Has No Limits” is a PlayStation tagline… and it also has no borders.

Top-down image of Project Leonardo controller components, including swappable buttons and analog stick caps.

Thanks to Project Leonardo, it is also aiming to have no barriers! Project Leonardo wants to adapt to players instead of having them adapt to the stock controller. 

Daniel is honest that the project’s starting crossed the Sony gaming divisions and seemed daunting, but several well-known charitable organizations and consultants helped Leonardo become what it is. The collective got it down to three key challenges to address. First, Leonardo had to be a controller you don’t need to hold. Secondly, buttons need to be easier to press and on the same level as the bumpers. Finally, a suite of thumbstick options must address different abilities. All this and the ability to switch caps and thumbsticks means that Leonardo adapts to you and grows and changes with you.

Lastly, it appears Sony, developers, and the disability gaming community are all working together to make the most of Leonardo.

Accessible play is happening!