Microsoft has introduced a new app to help the visually challenged navigate cities. Called Soundscape, it uses 3D audio technology to show the visually challenged features of the city around them, to help them get around the city and better explore their surroundings. The app is only available for iOS, and requires users to utilise stereo headsets to be able to perceive the directional audio the app provides. There is no Android version of Microsoft Soundscape for now.
On the App Store listing, Microsoft says 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." The app can also be used by those who aren't visually challenged to provide a better awareness of what's around them. The company has been working on research on this front for a while now, and other consumer-facing applications of its findings include Microsoft Seeing AI, a talking camera app once again meant for the visually challenged, and the Colour Binoculars app for the colour-blind.
The Redmond giant adds that its Soundscape app works well with "bone conduction headsets, Apple AirPods, and in-ear open headphones." Microsoft explains that the app is meant to work in the background, and that it has been designed to be used in "conjunction with other apps such as podcasts, audio books, email, and even GPS navigation."
Microsoft Soundscape features include the ability to call out key points of interest (including roads, intersections), the ability to place an audio beacon on a point of interest, My location - which describes current location, Around me - which describes nearby points of interest, and Ahead of me - which describes points of interest in front of the user. You can read more about the app and the related technologies behind it at its dedicated Microsoft Research page.