Microsoft Soundscape

Last modified
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
Category

Description of App

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.

Key features:
- 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
- “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.

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.

Version

2.2.4

Free or Paid

Free

Apple Watch Support

No

Device(s) App Was Tested On

iPhone

iOS Version

13.4

Accessibility Comments

Very accessible and easy to use.

VoiceOver Performance

VoiceOver reads all page elements.

Button Labeling

All buttons are clearly labeled.

Usability

The app is fully accessible with VoiceOver and is easy to navigate and use.

Other Comments

Another great app from the Microsoft company. Very easy to use and very accessible to use. You will need to have headphones for this as the sounds will be projected in 3D audio to project different items and locations. A fantastic app to have in your arsenal and most of all it has the Microsoft backing and its free to use.

Developer's Twitter Username

@MSFTEnable

Recommendations

8 people have recommended this app

Most recently recommended by AJ 1 year 5 months ago

Options

Comments

Submitted by Blinken223 on Thursday, June 20, 2019

I am so happy that this app has finally made its way up North. It's only been like a year! LOL

This coupled with the Bose Frames I plan on getting today, looking forward to see how well these two will work.

Submitted by mendi on Thursday, June 20, 2019

I tested the app out with my Bose Frames yesterday. It worked flawlessly. I think my aftershokz might not get much use any more these days.

On another note, apparently bing is not so smart, because I tried to mark my home address. It could not find my address in the database. Guess I'll have to remind myself to actually set a mark when I am at my house. And mind you. I'm here in the US. I could get it if I were trying it in Canada, where it was just released, but I'm not.

Submitted by dvdmth on Thursday, June 20, 2019

I haven't used this app in a while, but based on my experience when I did use it, the app uses OpenStreetMap exclusively for map data. I once had a detailed look at the service and noticed a lot of omissions in the data, including some missing street names and a ton of missing addresses. In fact, in my neighborhood I could only find a couple of locations where OSM knew the address, and one of them was wrong. And my neighborhood is several decades old, so it isn't like they just haven't gotten around to it.

The app's dependence on OSM is one of the reasons I stopped using it and went back to Nearby Explorer.

Submitted by Blinken223 on Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thanks for the updates with relations to the Bose Frames and the Open Street Maps lack of information.

I usually don't tend to solely rely on GPS to help guide me, I tend to memorize my routes and frequent locations. I do plan on trying them out in the coming weeks, once I get my Bose Frames, and will see if the app has more details in Canada.

One of the main reasons I look forward to trying this app is that, in some situations, like open areas, is being able to save a spot and having that audio feedback help me to find that location again

Here in my region, we have many big and open bus stations, and for most of my stops, they have been mainly at the ends of the platforms, making it a little easier to find my stop. But some of them though, and thankfully I don't have some now, some stops are in the middle of the platform and can be a little difficult to find that particular stop. But if the app works like I think it might, I could set a favourite at the stop itself, and then if I need to find that stop, have that audio feedback to help me to it.

Like I said, I don't currently have to take buses at stops in the middle of platforms, but we are having some changes done in my city that could change all of that for me.

I've tried my best to use my hearing and memory to find bus stops, as technology isn't perfect, and for the most part, I've managed fairly well. But for those situations where using your senses proves extremely difficult, perhaps Soundscape could help me out.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Submitted by Amos Miller on Friday, June 21, 2019

Folks this is Amos from the soundscape team, thanks for all the great feedback, and a warm welcome to our friends in Canada, with our first multi-lingual release of soundscape in English and Canadian French.

Just to clarify one point, since our release in May 2019 we improved the Soundscape map significantly. You can now search for addresses or any point of interest far beyond what is in OSM. You should be able to find almost every address, business, etc. Try setting a beacon to the CN Tower in Toronto to see where it is. You can also explore your near by area and filter by categories etc. Please give it a try and let us know what you think on soundscapefeed@microsoft.com we are still making refinements.

Submitted by DPinWI on Friday, June 21, 2019

When I tried Sound Scape earlier, I had a problem with the way the app took control of my blue tooth headphones' buttons. I use the controls to pause for road crossings, adjust volume, and skip back if I missed something in a podcast. It seemed these were being trapped by the app and I could no longer control audio playback. At the time, I searched the app's settings to find a way to disable this feature, but was not successful.

Is this still the case? Can I tell the app to ignore the blue tooth controls?

Submitted by Austin Grace on Tuesday, November 26, 2019

I normally use blindsquare for my gps needs but this is really an awesome app. I like how it presents things using stereo audio. Another awesome app from Microsoft!!!!!

Submitted by Ekaj on Saturday, January 11, 2020

Hi everyone. I'm back to relate 2 recent experiences with this app, and then I'll ask my question. The first experience I'd like to talk about took place 2 days before Christmas. This one is also up on my personal site for those who would like to check it out. I had to purchase a ticket for a New Year's Eve event that I was to attend along with 2 neighbors from my apartment complex. The tickets were at one of the branches of our public library, so I walked there and was expertly guided by this wonderful app. It also guided me back to my apartment complex. The second of these experiences took place just a bit ago today. Two neighbors and I went by car to a breakfast board meeting of the local environmental association. This time I had Callouts enabled, and we were very impressed with them. This leads me to my question. Is there or will there be a tutorial somewhere on how to use this app in conjunction with the native iOS maps app and/or something else? I have checked out the maps app only briefly, but it seems to be pretty extensive and a bit confusing.

Submitted by DPinWI on Thursday, July 2, 2020

I read in the latest AppleVis email that this app was updated and decided to give it a go on my walk to the dentist office today. It sounds great, but I still have the issue that I lose my bluetooth controls if the app is running. If I have music, podcasts, or a book running, the app works just fine, talking in conjunction with the audio, but, I cannot pause playback from my Air Pods by tapping them as I can when using other apps like Nearby Explorer. This is a deal breaker for me. I do not cross intersections with audio playing, and taking my phone out to manually pause playback isn't convenient.

Am I missing a setting to tell the app to ignore bluetooth controls? Why is it trapping them anyways? Tapping on my Air Pod is set to pause, but all I hear when I tap is a soft little beep, and my audio continues.

Is it just me?

Submitted by Jo Billard on Friday, July 3, 2020

I've been using it ever since it came out in Canada, and it's so easy to use. Last week I finally got the courage to try downloading one of the other voices, but when I tried Soundscape again, the volume of that voice is so low, I can't understand a single word. I really want to keep that voice, but what's the point when you can't hear a single word it is saying?

Submitted by Orko on Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last Christmas I was gifted a pair of the Alto version of the Bowes Frames along with a set of mirrored lenses. Except for needing something to help keep them on my face, they like to slide down my nose so I am frequently pushing them back up, I rather like them.

Today I decided to give Microsoft Soundscape a try, and after some initial confusion over the difference between markers and beacons, I soon had a handle on it and proceeded to go do some errands at the shopping center next door. Almost the first thing I noticed is that call outs were not being announced, and some markers were not where they should be despite using the map to place them. Lesson learned, don't use the map to set markers, instead set them while you are standing where you want the marker to be placed.

I also noticed that the app seemed really sluggish. I am using an iPhone SE with 64GB of storage. Is this iPhone not powerful enough to handle something like Soundscape?

I wonder what map system Bing uses and why Microsoft didn't simply use those maps since they already have a license to use them? They have to be better than the open street maps Soundscape is using now. If I decide not to use Soundscape, it will be because of the poor quality of the maps being used.

You can use Soundscape with other maps like Apple Maps and Google. I am about to take a course on how to do that. I used to know where that setting is, but I've forgotten now. Soundscape has a really good tutorial right in the app and it explains a lot.

Are you perhaps thinking of another program, or simply running that other map program and Soundscape together? Because there is nothing in Soundscape that allows you to change the source of the map data that Soundscape uses.

Submitted by Jo Billard on Thursday, September 10, 2020

In reply to by Orko

No, I'm not. I've taken two courses in Microsoft Soundscape, it's not really obvious where to find that setting, and I'm taking a refresher soon. I'll let you know how to find it, because once you know how, or remember in my case, it's pretty easy. I'll take another look at it and get back to you.

Submitted by Orko on Sunday, September 13, 2020

I tried Soundscape again today and was very disappointed with the results yet again. Today all it would do is lock up my 64 Gb iPhone SE, then crash to the home page leaving fragments of itself in memory. I tried terminating it using the app switcher, but ultimately had to shutdown and restart the operating system to get it out of memory.

There is no way that this flaky app is worth all this trouble...

Submitted by Blinken223 on Monday, September 14, 2020

Sorry to hear about the problems you've been encountering with Soundscape. Not to be rude, have you tried uninstalling and reinstalling the app? Which iPhone SE do you have, if you don't mind me asking?

I find it odd that Soundscape is that trouble-sum on an iPhone SE. If uninstalling and reinstalling it doesn't work, I would reach out to Microsoft and let them know.

I know that the app worked fine on my iPhone 8+ and now on my iPhone 11. Perhaps it's just a matter of uninstalling and reinstalling it, that may do the trick. That or the app is buggy on that type of hardware, so letting Microsoft know of the issue might not be a bad idea.

HTH!

Submitted by Orko on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I finally heard from Microsoft regarding all the problems I've been having with this app and they recommended that I should update my operating system to the current version. They agreed that early on upgrading to iOS 13 was not a good idea if you rely on the accessibility features, but that the current version has all of the major accessibility bugs fixed so that it is safe to upgrade.

So, I just upgraded my phone to iOS 13.7 and will try Soundscape again on Friday.

I'm hoping that this will resolve all these problems as this app seems very promising if I can just get it to cooperate!

Side note: I'm surprised, I was expecting iOS 13 to be a little bit sluggish on my original iPhone SE, but it is quite snappy!