Soundscape and blindsquare

2 minute read

I have been using the microsoft Soundscape app on the IPhone pretty regularly almost from the day it was first released.
The app provides inputs on your geographical location while you are moving either on foot or in a vehicle. It keeps announcing addresses and intersections as you approach them. It has a nice 3D audio interface that indicates the direction of an address or intersection by announcing it so the sound is coming from the direction of the location being announced. This is really intuitive and helps someone with low or no vision maintain their oreintation while on the move.
Recently, I was in an uber and put in a wrong address of a place that was close to but not exactly where I wanted to go. Only because I had the soundscape app running was I able to know that we were heading in the wrong direction in time to change the destination in the uber app. Otherwise, I would have landed at the wrong destination and then figured out that I wasn’t where I wanted to be with a lot of confusion.

It is very similar to the blindsquare app, which was what I primarily used earlier for this kind of guidance. The soundscape app interface is much cleaner and more efficient to use as compared to blindsquare.
One issue with the 3D audio in soundscape is that it is almost impossible to use it without headphones though. So, if your heaphones run out of battery or you forget them at home, you cannot really use the app any more. The sound from phone speakers is not understandable specially in an outdoor noisy setting.
Blindsquare did not have this 3D audio mechanism and did not have this use with headphone-only issue either.
Also, I am not sure how well the app will work for people who are hard of hearing in one ear because again, the 3D audio interface breaks down for those users.
The soundscape app has an audio beacon concept. I haven’t been able to use it well so far. I think it will work a lot better if this was being driven by something I was wearing on my head like a pair of glasses to sort of orient me based on where I am looking. It is a promising concept but I think it needs more work.
Lastly, I think the audio beacon feature has a lot of applicability to indoor navigation like in an office space. So, I could be looking for a particular conference room in the office and the beacon can guide me in the general direction while I navigate with my usual white cane navigation.