Microsoft Soundscape uses 3D audio technology to enhance your awareness of what is around you, and thereby help you get around and explore your surroundings.
Soundscape will place audio cues and labels in 3D space such that they sound like they are coming from the direction of the points of interest, parks, roads and other features in your surroundings.
You will need a pair of stereo headsets that you feel comfortable wearing outdoors. For example, bone conduction headsets, Apple AirPods and in-ear open headphones have proven to work well.
Soundscape is designed to live in the background and provide you with effortless ambient awareness. Therefore, feel free to use it in conjunction with other apps such as podcasts, audio books, email and even GPS navigation.
- As you walk, Soundscape will automatically call out the key points of interest, roads and intersections that you pass. These can be adjusted and turned on and off.
- An audio beacon can be placed on a point of interest, and you will hear it as you move around. You can place an audio beacon on a point of interest that you would like to track such as your destination, a point to return to or a landmark you are familiar with.
- “My Location” describes your current location and the direction you are facing.
- "Nearby Markers" describes nearby places you have marked.
- “Around Me” describes nearby points of interest in each of the four cardinal directions, helping with orientation. Try this out when getting off a bus or leaving a train station.
- “Ahead of Me” describes points of interest in front of you, for example when walking down the street.
- The expandable Callout History section lets you review callouts you have heard, repeat callouts, hear more information about them, and more.
We hope you enjoy the experience. We believe that this kind of technology offers a new way to relate to the environment around you and we can’t wait to hear what you make of it.
If at any time you have any questions about Soundscape, please refer to the Help & Tutorials section available on the main menu or if you require further help then you can contact the Disability Answer Desk on 1-800-936-5900 which is a free of charge service.
In this release, we have made some big improvements to the experience when setting an audio beacon or creating a marker! This experience is now powered by Bing and you can use Bing to search for any place, near or far! Bing also powers the new Nearby Places list which can now be filtered by categories such as “Public Transit” or “Food & Drink.”
We have also updated the experience when Soundscape is working offline. When Soundscape cannot connect to the internet, a new banner will appear at the top of your screen. You can click on that banner or navigate to “Using Soundscape Offline” under “Help & Tutorials” to learn more about what you can expect when Soundscape is working offline.
Ratings and Reviews
Great idea, poorly implemented
The idea of sound navigation aid is ingenious. However, this app comes short in almost every aspect of its implementation. The app is not functional without a network connection. No way to download regions for offline navigation. The app can't even determine your location when you're offline. The app is not able to navigate along a previously recorded route. It can only navigate to a single point -beacon. There is neither a way to automatically navigate along a string of predefined beacons. Markers are great, however, you never know how close you need to be to a given market to hear about its proximity. For some markers you really want to be close, for others, you just may want to know that they are near.
The app claims to be mostly for people with impaired vision. It doesn't have to be. It could be used to navigate in dense forests, in the dark, in the fog or snow storm. Sound navigation clearly has much larger potential. Actually, one has to wonder if this kind of sound navigation is not severely limiting audio stream a person with reduced vision needs to proced in order to stay safe in a busy city environment. The constant sound distraction coming from this app could prevent its user from, let's say hearing a incoming car when crossing a street. What is also very frustrating is that there is nobody listening to user feedback. Well. That's a normal large corporation way.
Developer Response ,
Thank you for this feedback; we recognise that Soundscape is a new technology and provides a new way to orient and navigate around an environment, and your note will help us improve the overall experience and the accompanying messaging. In terms of the safety aspect you’ve raised, this is of course an area that is very important to us and we continue to work very closely with our partners such Guide Dogs UK and Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco to ensure that their expertise is reflected in the design and development of Soundscape. For example, regarding the headset, we recommend that people only use the app with a headset they feel comfortable with and in a way that personally works best for them.
Since our launch, we have learnt that each person using Soundscape will use its features in ways that work best for them and the feedback that we receive is important in helping us understand how to get the most from the innovative 3D sound technology on which Soundscape is built. We’re sorry to hear that you think no one is listening to feedback but rest assured we read every piece of feedback we receive and respond directly where appropriate! The most direct way to get feedback to us is to use the feedback button in the app, or send an email directly to email@example.com.
It’s beta, but with so much potential
I am not visually impaired. U I downloaded the application because I wanted to see what it was like to get an awareness of my surroundings in a completely different way. So on my vacation, I used the Soundscape app to navigate my way around a tourist destination. It was really fascinating to have streets, stores and other landmarks pointed out to me that I had never noticed before. I was using soundscape in conjunction with the “What 3 Words” app to pin markers to exact locations instead of street addresses.
I think this technology has huge potential for the sighted, to draw our attention to overlooked resources or points of interest when a roulette are in surroundings that are visually overwhelming such as dense urban environments or in crowds.
Incredible concept and worth trying
....in that way it’s a 5 star app. But it’s not perfect yet. It gets confused a lot which way you’re facing. (probably a hardware issue). Ideally it should work with the phone in my pocket but the phone’s compass doesn’t work well that way....the hardware issue.
The interface is a little confusing and it’s not always clear which app mode you should select by default and when / why you would use one of the other modes.
This app is very useful when you are in an unfamiliar place, especially in a place where you should keep your phone out of sight. Being able to utilize headset remote functions to control the app would be helpful. i.e. tie the headset remote fast forward function to trigger a one shot what’s around me when running in what’s ahead of me mode
Developer Response ,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review. I can respond to a few of the points you make here. The app does use the compass when you are holding the phone in your hand, and as you surmised, we do not always get an accurate compass heading from the hardware. When the phone is in your pocket, however, it uses your direction of movement/walking. While this does mean that you have to move a few yards (or meters) for the app to determine a direction, it also means that you can keep the phone stored in an easily accessible place while you walk which frees up your hands.
Based on your other questions, it seems as though there is a bit of confusion about the buttons at the bottom being "modes" in the app. The four bottom buttons are informational buttons only - you can ask the app at any time to tell you your location (leftmost button), or to call out your nearby markers, points of interest around you, or points of interest ahead of you. While you walk, the app will always call out points of interst as you pass by, upcoming intersections, and periodic updates about your location and the beacon if you have one set.
We would love to hear more from you (and anyone else!) about how the first use (or days of use) of Soundscape went for you to learn more about how we can do a better job of getting new users up and running with Soundscape as quickly and confidently as possible! Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue this discussion!
All the best,
- Microsoft Corporation
- 248.9 MB
Requires iOS 11.4 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 3 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 4 Wi-Fi + Cellular, 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Pro (9.7-inch) Wi‑Fi + Cellular, iPad (5th generation) Wi‑Fi + Cellular, iPad Pro (12.9‑inch) (2nd generation) Wi‑Fi + Cellular, iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Wi‑Fi + Cellular, iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (6th generation), iPad Pro (11-inch) Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Pro (12.9-inch) Wi‑Fi + Cellular, iPad mini (5th generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular, and iPad Air (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular.
- Age Rating
- Rated 4+
- This app may use your location even when it isn't open, which can decrease battery life.
- © 2018 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
With Family Sharing set up, up to six family members can use this app.