Working for People with Sight Loss

Microsoft launches Soundscape app to enable people to explore the world around them

Man sitting on bench holding iPhone with MS Soundscape app open on screen

Microsoft announced the launch of the much-anticipated Soundscape app in Ireland on 3rd August this year. In collaboration with Microsoft, mobility specialists at NCBI had been working directly with service users to help them use the app and provide feedback on its impact on their daily lives. This free app, available on iPhone and iPad, has been designed to enable people to explore the world around them through a 3D experience. The app uses innovative audio-based technology to enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and independent when moving around their town, city or local area.

How does Soundscape work?

Soundscape provides information about your surroundings using stereo 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 SE, iPhone 6S or later iPhone models and is compatible with most wired or Bluetooth stereo headsets.

What makes Soundscape different from other navigational apps?

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 users to build a mental map and make personal route choices while being more comfortable within unfamiliar spaces. Soundscape is designed to be used by everyone and live in the background; therefore, it can be used in conjunction with other apps such as podcasts or audio books.

Setting Markers in Microsoft Soundscape

One of the most useful features of the app is the ability to create Markers to places that are relevant to you such as pedestrian crossings, intersections in parks, benches, ATMs, and generally things that are not always available in public maps. Setting Markers is also good for giving you the heads up about upcoming dangerous obstacles such as bollards, sets of steps, or overhanging branches. What’s more, Markers you create can now be shared with others; for example, you can send a Marker to another Soundscape user, or a Mobility Instructor or friend can send you Markers they have annotated for your route.

Where can I download the Soundscape app?

Microsoft Soundscape is available to download from the Apple App Store through the following link: https://apps.apple.com/ie/app/microsoft-soundscape/id1240320677.