Microsoft has today announced that as of January 3, 2023, its Soundscape app will not be available for download and that existing installations will cease to work after the end of June 2023.
The Microsoft Soundscape app for iPhone was launched 6 years ago. It uses 3D audio technology to enhance your awareness of what is around you, and thereby help you get around and explore your surroundings. As you walk, key points of interest and your own saved locations are called out automatically as you pass them. Additionally, Microsoft Soundscape can tell you about your current location, direction, and what's ahead of you. It was inducted in to the AppleVis Hall of Fame in 2019.
In its announcement, Microsoft says that “it is now time to transition the Soundscape research project to the next phase, where we will share it to allow for broader development.” This will be in the form of the Soundscape code becoming available on GitHub as open-source software.
Beginning January 3, 2023, the Soundscape code will be available as open-source software, so that anyone can continue to build on, and find new ways to leverage, this novel feature set for the growing navigation opportunities in today’s world. As Microsoft Research continues to expand into new accessibility innovation areas, we hope the open-source software release of the Soundscape code supports the community in further developing confidence and utility of spatial audio navigation experiences.
Microsoft says that today's announcement heralds “New Horizons” for Microsoft Soundscape “with a community-driven approach. As many blind users have come to rely on Microsoft Soundscape as an important part of their navigation toolbox, we will be keen to discover what opportunities that having the soundscape code available as open source will offer to other developers - whether this is to incorporate Soundscape's functionality into existing tools or to create completely new ones.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this news.
Oh no! I just discovered…
Oh no! I just discovered soundscape a week ago, and it’s sad that it will be discontinued. Quite a handy app.
It has not been discontinued
It's just switching to an open-source model, not being discontinued.
Microsoft will just remove it from the appstore in January. Odd that existing installations will stop working after June, they must be turning off the server it's using.
Hopefully someone else ponies up and fixes it by then. I do not have a Mac, and have never developed for iOS unfortunately.
Yeah I agree.
i do have a dev account and a mac, but I'm not of a dev caliber that I could maintain it. and I'm also super busy haha.
I bought a pair of Bose Alto frames earlier this year just so I could use them with Soundscape. A couple of months later they announced they were discontinuing support of them, and now the whole app is going.
I use this app when out and about with my sighted partner, and it really gives me a good idea of my surroundings and makes me feel a bit more than I'm just being shepherded around. I love how it gives me information without being very verbose (like Lazarillo for example).
Hopefully someone will take up the mantle and release a new version from the open source project, but I'm guessing they won't have the resources of Microsoft. I also really hope the Bose Frames code is released open source too. I know it's a defunct product but they are great.
As to the comment above re a back end - does Soundscape need a back-end beyond Bing Maps (which I presume is going nowhere).
Personally, I think this is awful!
Soundscape has been my go-to navigation app because it is so easy to use and because of the 3D technology. It's bad enough that it won't be in the app store, but the way I understand it, I won't even be able to use it in June. I can't use BlindSquare, it does nothing but confuse me because the interface seems so complicated, and the others I have don't seem to do anything. I spent hours with an O&M instructor marking places I might want to go to in a couple of neighbourhoods, and now I won't have a way to find them anymore or even know what's in those neighbourhoods in the same detail as I do now.
the best things in life are free, and all good things come to an end. won't you agree?
A Bit Surprised by This
I got this on an email list last night. I used their app a few times, twice in a car. It was very helpful to me just as a stand-alone app, and I'm excited to see what the future holds now that it will be open-source. What would be cool is if this thing were to be somehow ported to the fediverse. How exactly that would happen I have no idea, as I myself am just getting started in the fediverse.
What will open source mean for the app?
On the one hand making the code open source is good because now others can build on it. On the other hand, I'm guessing that this app can't work without some substantial server intrastructure, and that costs money. So I see a disconnect between being open source and requiring a financial backing. I guess we'll see what happens. Too bad for the many people who have come to rely on the app, but I guess some things can't stay free forever.
That may be the end of this one; too bad.
I am a very big fan of open-source and having been using it in the *nix world since the early 80s, but there are several big issues that will come up if someone wants to make this available; like:
How not to violate the open-source license that this is under?
How much one can charge because any development if it is a person will need to have some funding just for the matter of making it available and the ongoing maintenance?
Then there is the matter of required services/servers to have this talk to to get/update information, ETC; there will be costs for running that (most probably done in the cloud) would be the most reasonable?
I'll sure miss it; nearby explorer is nice and even Apple Maps, but it had the right balance of information and all those other cool features like real directional whats-around and hear where something is. I could use it to point an antenna to some place (being an amateur radio guy) and hear where places are related to my location. It was free though, so we can't complain about this wonderful experimental service, I guess...
Does this even have a backend?
I've seen a few posts on here talking about back-end costs for this app. But what back-end does it have? The map information is surely not specific to the app. I always presumed it came from Bing Maps, although on the Double Tap podcast they were saying it uses Open Maps. So unless you need a license to access the data, I don't see there being any major costs in hosting the app.
(I guess it might host your beacons etc in the cloud, but I suspect other options would be available.)
I obviously don't know what the code is like, but maybe some of the other apps like Lazarillo might be able to grab some of the code and incorporate it into their own apps.
If I download the source and run it in Xcode, do I need an Apple dev account just to get it onto my phone? Or can I install it that way and then keep it until it breaks?
backend and installing the app.
For apps like these, costs will depend on usage per month. This is usually measured by the number of requests made to the API or service. Someone could probably get an estimate by looking at what the code is doing.
As for installing the app on your device, you'll need a paid apple developer account if you want to get anywhere with this.
Has anyone tried the WaveOut…
Has anyone tried the WaveOut application and what do they think to it?
first nearby explorer and now this one
I had been fearful that one day nearby explorer would disappear all together until I started using sound scape. What I love about these apps is that I can create a marker in the national forest, even without an internet connection.
I am having trouble getting my hopes up that something will be available after June.
Most importantly is, no one knows whether there will be another app provide the same good-quality feature after June 2023. In my opinion, Microsoft should consider not to remove it from the App Store. At least, there is a way for new comer or anyone trying to recover the backup of iPhone before a replacement come into the audio navigation. Well, I remember Google hv launched detailed audio guide in U.S. & Japan. Does anyone know the progress now?
Really hoping that somebody will continue this project.
Q: What is changing for Microsoft Soundscape?
Microsoft official blog post.
I will be interested in what is released two developers in January. Hopefully they publicize this to enough people to get traction. That might be up to us. looks like developers will have to build their own cloud service but Microsoft will provide the code.
Checked the AppStore just now and
I just checked the AppStore and soundscape still shows up but you can’t download it. Good buy soundscape
good maps out doors
I have been test driving good maps out doors, and after some stumbling I think I like it. When following a route there is an option called getting warmer, which is simular to a beacon.
I was expecting a far worse experience.
I have been looking at other GPS applications and none come close to Microsoft Soundscape. I am really very concerned.
I checked the application code and several services are used, including some from Azure. Also, they use Kubernetes to deploy some. It won't be easy to replicate Microsoft Soundscape and it won't be cheap either.
Below is the link to the Microsoft Soundscape code with instructions, if anyone is up for it. As a developer, I might try to help where I can if more people join in, but it won't be easy.
It would be interesting to do some campaign to find more developers interested in helping to release Soundscape again, although there will probably be a charge involved. Personally, I'm very willing to pay for such an application. I haven't found any application this good.
Any alternatives to soundscapes
Can anybody suggest ann alternative to soundscapes that will work in the UK preferably a free app thanks in anticipation!