Soundscape app enables visually impaired people to explore the world around them

Microsoft Soundscape app

Audio tech helps users build a richer awareness of their surroundings

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6 August 2021 | 0

Microsoft has an app designed to enable people to explore the world through the medium of sound.

Using 3D audio cues, Soundscape can be used to help the visually impaired to explore their environment. Over the past year, Microsoft has been collaborating with NCBI (National Council for the Blind in Ireland) to test the Soundscape app locally. Mobility specialists at NCBI have been working directly with service users to help them use the app and provide feedback on its impact on their daily lives. 

Soundscape uses audio-based technology to enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and independent when moving around their town, city or local area. Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape uses 3D audio cues that help build a mental map of their surrounding and provides a new way for people to relate to their environment.

 

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Michael Leahy, a 38-year-old native of Dublin has used the Microsoft Soundscape app to build up his confidence in travelling independently and getting back into work after losing his sight just 18 months ago.

Speaking about the impact of Soundscape, Leahy said: “When I lost my vision, my world was turned upside down. I didn’t know what to do or how to move forward. I was losing my sense of self and my confidence in the process.

“After I completed my foundational mobility training NCBI introduced me to the Microsoft Soundscape app. I knew very quickly I had found a tool that could really improve the quality of my daily life. The app helped me to navigate my daily routes and to start going out independently. Being mobile has given me back my independence and the confidence to find employment. The Soundscape app has been truly life-changing.”

“Technology is a huge enabler for people living with a vision impairment or blindness,” said Chantelle Smith, national access and mobility manager, at NCBI. “Over the past year, I’ve seen first-hand how the Microsoft Soundscape app has supported Michael to regain his independence following his diagnosis.

“Soundscape has the potential to positively impact the lives of almost 55,000 people in Ireland who are blind or vision impaired to more freely navigate the world around them. We’re thrilled that it is now available for free here in Ireland and I’d encourage those within the community to download it and use it to its full potential.”

Soundscape can be downloaded for free via the App Store for iOS devices. Visit Microsoft Soundscape to find out more.

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