Friday 20 April 2018

Microsoft's new Soundscape app helps the visually impaired navigate cities

Person reading Braille (portokalis/Getty Images)
Person reading Braille (portokalis/Getty Images)
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Microsoft has launched a new app that aims to assist navigation for the visually impaired.

For the last number of years, the company has been working on using 3D soundscapes of audio for navigation.

Early research and experimentation with a bone conduction headset and smartphone system has led to the new Soundscape app.

This allows users to access the app with an ordinary smartphone (currently an iPhone) and any pair of stereo headphones.

Audio flags can be set for specific destinations and locations, and the app gives 3D audio aids to help improve the user's "ambient awareness" on their way to that place.

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Users will then be able to incorporate these cues (which can be perceived directionally)  from the Soundscape as they build a mental image of what’s around them on their route.

Roads, intersections and general points of interest can be called out by the app if requested by the user.

Soundscape also has more specific 'live' settings for describing a user’s current location and what’s coming up ahead.

Microsoft Soundscape is available now for iOS but is not yet available on Android.

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