Microsoft’s Soundscape app, which uses 3D audio cues to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted navigate the world, is coming to Canada.
The free app informs users about their surroundings, such as by identifying landmarks, nearby amenities, street crossings and even the users’ favourite stores. It helps users build a mental map, acquire spatial awareness and more.
Essentially, Soundscape takes the map on your phone and plays it around you in three dimensional sound. For example, a sighted person could look at the map and see there’s a shoe store near them. With this app, someone with a visual impairment can listen, and the app will say there’s a shoe store from the direction of the store.
OpenStreetMap data powers Soundscape and its features. For example, Soundscape provides spatial audio, where it calls out landmarks in relation to the user. This helps users connect with the environment around themselves more naturally.
Additionally, Soundscape has information buttons, including ‘Locate,’ ‘Around Me’ and ‘Ahead of Me.’ The first helps users find things near them, while Around Me provides a 260-degree ‘sweep’ of points of interest. Ahead of Me calls out five items in front of the user.
On top of this, Soundscape can run as a stand-alone app or users can pair it with other navigational apps by running Soundscape in the background.
Soundscape also works with existing aids, like walking sticks or guide dogs.
The app will launch on iOS in English and French, but this time there’s no version for Android users.
You can learn more about Soundscape here.