Microsoft has a new iOS app out called Soundscape that uses 3D audio technology to help map out landmarks and points of interest through audio cues.
The company has been working on using 3D soundscapes of audio for navigation as early as 2014 when the company first began experimenting with a bone conduction headset and smartphone system. The Soundscape app is built off of that research, packaging it into a form that works with an ordinary smartphone and any pair of stereo headphones.
Users can set audio beacons at specific destinations and places, and the app will provide 3D audio cues (which can be perceived directionally) to help improve their “ambient awareness” as they travel there. Users will then be able to incorporate that information from the Soundscape as they build a mental image of what’s around them.
THE SOUNDSCAPE APP CAN DESCRIBE DIFFERENT SHOPS AND STREET NAMES AS YOU WALK BY
The Soundscape app can also call out points of interest, roads, and intersections that you pass, along with more specific settings for describing a user’s current location and direction, or what’s coming up ahead of them. For example, it can describe different shops and street names as you walk by, something that other navigation techniques used by people with visual impairments can’t always help with.
If a user isn’t sure where they are or which way to travel, they can hold the phone flat in their hand with the top edge facing the direction they want to go and then use the buttons at the bottom of the screen to locate nearby landmarks and navigate.
Microsoft Soundscape is available now for iOS.
What is Soundscape?
Microsoft Soundscape is a research project that explores the use of innovative audio-based technology to enable people, particularly those with blindness or low vision, to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and empowered to get around. Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment. It allows you to build a mental map and make personal route choices while being more comfortable within unfamiliar spaces.
How does Soundscape work?
Soundscape provides information about your surroundings with synthesized binaural audio, creating the effect of 3D sound. It can run in the background in conjunction with navigation or other applications to provide you with additional context about the environment. Your phone, in hand or in pocket, tracks movement using location and activity sensors, and lets you move toward a self-set audio beacon. Soundscape runs on iPhone 5S or later and is compatible with most wired or Bluetooth stereo headsets.
Getting started with Soundscape
When you first install Soundscape, you’ll want to connect a stereo headset or earbuds. Follow the introduction and when prompted, allow the app to access your location. Then, explore a familiar route to get used to how Soundscape delivers spatial information.
Explore, discover, and have fun!
You can use Soundscape in a number of different ways, whether on a well-known route, out about with a friend or using it to discover new places.
Come on the journey with us…
Microsoft’s user trials show that Soundscape can help reduce levels of stress and anxiety, giving people with sight loss more confidence when they’re out and about in an urban environment. But because Soundscape reflects a new concept, it will take a little time to get used to it, and they need your feedback on how to make it better and more useful. Contact Microsoft at firstname.lastname@example.org