Microsoft iPhone app creates a sound map

Microsoft has launched an app which can help map the world for blind and visually impaired people, giving directions, describing the local area and guiding them from place to place.

The Soundscape app lets users set a beacon at their destination and then sets off 3D spatial audio cues to give the user awareness of what is around them. It connects to global map services to describe places of interest or street names. 

 

Using a smartphone connected to a headset like Apple AirPods, it helps blind people gain a better awareness of their location, while it can also be used in conjunction with other apps, like a GPS map, working in the background.

By telling users road and place names and giving directions out loud, the app provides blind people with points of reference to make it easier to navigate the world, while being distinct from route guidance apps. The app is made to be used to be in addition to navigation methods like guide dogs.

 

Microsoft revealed a prototype of the Soundscape technology, including a special headset, in 2014, but it has now released the app on IOS  to the public in the UK and the US.

“The app enriches your perception of surroundings as you walk, helping you get where you want to go,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

The project was started in 2014 by Microsoft developer Amos Miller, a product designer who lost his eye sight due to a genetic condition. “When someone can relate to their environment in a natural and intuitive way, it changes their relationship with their world,” said Mr Miller.

The app has features such as “Look Ahead”, that describes to users what is ahead, which can be controlled in the settings. 

We can’t wait to try the new app out but need to wait for the snow to disappear first!

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