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 TJT 2001 on Thursday, March 1, 2018

Part of the description has been printed twice.

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Thursday, March 1, 2018

It does have an Apple Watch app which enables you to request it to speak your location, what’s ahead ETC. This means you can leave your phone in your pocket :-). Brilliant app and I have enjoyed using it for several weeks and it has meant I’ve been able to get out with my guy dog in Waze I didn’t feel confident enough to do so before.

Submitted by AnonyMouse on Thursday, March 1, 2018

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Doh! Thanks for the heads up. Description and Watch have now been updated

Submitted by riyu12345 (not verified) on Thursday, March 1, 2018

A podcast comparing it to an app like Blindsquare would be great.

I bought blindsquare and haven't used it that much. Oops. Having said that, I have the feeling this app is going to be just as good if not better in some ways.

Submitted by riyu12345 (not verified) on Friday, March 2, 2018

I've played a little with SoundScape and have found that, according to the tutorial, it's best to use a navigation app along side this one. I'd still use BlindSquare for the bus functionality but I wonder if we'll see less people using BlindSquare and using something like google maps or apple maps and this app in the future?

It's happened with things like Seeing AI and other free OCR apps. People have stopped using KNFB reader and are using these apps instead so what do you think?

DO you think apps like this one and perhaps others in the future will replace Blindsquare and that app from America that I can't remember the name of?

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Friday, March 2, 2018

Microsoft Soundscape is not available in Australia.

Submitted by DPinWI on Friday, March 2, 2018

This is a good start. However, it is a long way from being able to replace Nearby Explorer for me.

I can see it as an adjunct though.

I haven't played with it too much, and will go for my first walk with it today, but in looking through the app, here are some things it's missing, and that I fully expect will come with time.

Search for locations from my contact list, or from a street address
Turn by turn directions
Multiple map sources
Choice of POI sources

I am not sure if I will grow to like the effects on the voice. I think I will not just get used to it, but appreciate it as a way to differentiate the app's output from other concurrent sources.

I am conflicted about Microsoft's new apps. I really appreciate the incredible work they have done, and the price is right. But one of the good things lately has been the variety of options we have had. For example, Seeing Eye, Nearby Explorer, Blind Square, Around Me, and a host of lesser known GPS apps. The big ones can justify their price by providing a rich feature set. But if Seeing AI is an example of Microsoft's commitments, it won't be long before this app is a viable replacement

I am amazed at what is available, and what may be coming, but I am a little concerned about a contraction of the field of developers.

Submitted by charles on Friday, March 2, 2018

Some people are thinking that this will replace other apps. It! does! not!! This app is to be used in conjunction with a full blown GPS app such as Nearby Explorer, not to replace one. If you looked at the description in Thomas's article, this is obvious. I am excited about this app being released, and will try it out soon during a 40 mile car ride as well as a good walk. Thanks for the article, Anonymouse!

Submitted by Charlie on Friday, March 2, 2018

Hi. How do I get this app onto my Apple Watch, as well as on my phone? Will I get different functionality from the watch?

Submitted by Blinken223 on Friday, March 2, 2018

Unfortunately, the app is not yet available in Canada. But knowing Microsoft, wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't make its way to the Canadian App Store in the next couple of months.

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Friday, March 2, 2018

The Apple Watch app seems to have been removed since i upgraded from the beta to the final release.

Submitted by JeffB on Friday, March 2, 2018

This is a great app but for some reason it always thinks I'm facing north. I haven't tried it outside yet and maybe that is the issue?

Submitted by Amos Miller on Friday, March 2, 2018

Hey folks – this is Amos from the Soundscape team here, just to clarify the watch support confusion - we did experiment with a watch-based interaction during beta, and have removed it from the Appstore version due to inconsistencies in behavior. Hands-free use is an important goal for the experience and we’d love to hear your thoughts on the watch and other input devices.

I thought i was missing something have flattened my battery twice today trying to work out the reason why i could not get the app on my Apple Watch thank you Amis for your intervention not on Apple Watch from App Store a great App can be a bit heavy on battery drain my only criticism when running in background but still a great step forwards

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Friday, March 2, 2018

Thanks for clarifying Amos. I knew I had used it. I personally found the watch app worked well. I wonder whehter it would be possible to have a fully functional version of the watch app at some point which can do everything the phone version does. At least on the watches with GPS etc anyway. But thanks for a brilliant app. I don't think the description does the audio prompts justice and how they help get a better understanding of the space around the user. I gather Microsoft is looking at a headset which will have it's own compass built in so the app will be aware of which direction the users head is actually pointing. I can't wait to try that out. I've used it with both the Trex Air headphones and the Apple Airpods and I mostly prefer the Trex Air but I don't find them loud enough in noisy environments and revert back to my Airpods for those situations.

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Saturday, March 3, 2018

In reply to by JeffB

Your problem is that you are not outside for the GPS to work.
Make shore you are outside first before you open the Microsoft Soundscape App.

Maybe Microsoft is testing the Soundscape app version for the Apple Watch.

You might be write with the fact that Microsoft doesn’t roll out the Soundscape App everywhere.

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Saturday, March 3, 2018

In reply to by Charlie

I’am not shore.

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Saturday, March 3, 2018

In reply to by charles

Can you please make a podcast on the Microsoft Soundscape App?

Submitted by slj on Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hi.
I don't get why apps not are available world wide. Why make those stupid restrictions? It is coming later like seeing AI, I know, but what is the reason for only make an app available in some countries? Some people would say the reason is some services are only available in some countries. I get this argument. I would also get the argument if we had to wait until the app was translated, but Seeing AI is not translated into my language, so I see no point of waiting to release SoundScape in other countries. Why only let some people download a free app? People who currently are blocked from downloading the app are following the news and reading the announcement about the release. When they find out the app is not available in their country, they usually loose the interest. I'm really enjoying Seeing AI, which also wasn't available in my country the first months of release. I lost the interest in the app because I was blocked from downloading it, and I saw no reason for sharing the announcement to other blind people in my country, because we couldn't download it anyway. Then, suddenly, I noticed by luck that the app was available. I made a demonstration of the app together with a friend of mine, and shared the podcast to the blind community in my country.
I would like to get an answer on this "You may see the announcement, but don't touch, because you don't live in the chosen country" behavior. Thank you.

Submitted by Ekaj on Sunday, March 4, 2018

This sounds really cool, pun literally intended. I'm totally a newbie with all this accessible GPS stuff, and in fact haven't even gotten my iPhone yet but I *think* I'm getting warmer, lol! But I can't wait to try this stuff out. Lol I don't even know how exactly to use Apple Maps yet, or Google Maps or any of them. But having said that, I'm intrigued by this wayfinding concept and am itching to try it out myself. This coming from someone who doesn't have very good independent travel skills, lol. But that's a long story, one which I won't get into on here. But this new Microsoft app was just mentioned on an email discussion list to which I recently subscribed.

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hi,

In Menu > Settings > Bluetooth: there are Microsoft SoundScape Remote and Headset accessories.

Does anyone know what these accessories are or how they work?

Thanks!

Submitted by Ryan Dour on Monday, March 5, 2018

I also have the same question, I'd be interested in finding out more about accessories.

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Monday, March 5, 2018

In reply to by kevinchao89

Maybe the Microsoft remote for the Microsoft Soundscape App.
Is so that you can use the Microsoft Soundscape App by putting the iPhone in your pocket and instead use the Microsoft remote to control the Microsoft Soundscape App.

Submitted by melissaperkins10 (not verified) on Monday, March 5, 2018

In reply to by Ekaj

Yes it sounds really cool to use GPS Apps.

Submitted by DPinWI on Monday, March 5, 2018

I took the app for a short walk. As I expected, I quickly got used to the effects on the voice. It does make the 3D effect stand out. It was quite easily understood playing over music.

The POI database has almost nothing in my area, except for a cemetery, and a middle school. Neither of which I have much need for. Ha. No other local businesses were announced during my fairly short walk. I intend to walk into a more commercial area as soon as the weather allows, and I assume I will have more luck with POI announcements.

On the way, intersections where announced before, and at the point of crossing.

The only issue I had was that on the way home, I received a call I ignored, and from that point on, I heard no further output from the app. When I got home, my phone said the app was still active and using my GPS.

I shall play some more.

Submitted by Ann Marie B on Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hello,
I recently installed Soundscapes and was trying to change the language from U.K. English to U.S. English. I tried double tapping on the language button in the soundscape settings and it was not accessible with voice Over. Does anyone know a workaround for this minor issue?
Thanks. :)

Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Club AppleVis Member

I tried out this app for the first time today, going for a walk in the neighborhood.

One thing I really like about the app is how it announces intersections as I approach them. I first hear the road on the left, announced in the left speaker, followed by the road that’s ahead, announced through both speakers, and then what’s on the right side, announced in the right speaker. I haven’t been to any intersections more complex than a typical four-way, but for the intersections I visited this approach worked really well. Easily better than BlindSquare and also beats out Nearby Explorer in my opinion. The app even managed to announce an intersection with a parking lot entrance, which it called a service road, something neither BlindSquare nor Nearby Explorer will do.

It appears the app is using OpenStreetMap exclusively, for both roads and points of interest. Although OSM has its advantages, I find the service to be problematic, because it relies on user contributed map data. In some places OSM works well, but in others the data is incomplete or even flat-out wrong. I hope Microsoft can add alternate data sources in future releases, and I would even consider paying a subscription to get access to other services if there are licensing issues involved.

One thing OpenStreetMap does offer is more details about footpaths and trails, many of which are identified by name. BlindSquare will announce intersections between a trail and a roadway, or between two trails, but Soundscape currently does not. I can certainly understand suppressing this information when traveling in a vehicle, but it would be nice if this info can be included when traveling on foot.

I am having difficulty using Soundscape in combination with audio from other apps. Initially the feature worked, but the sound from this app was not loud enough to be understood over the other audio sources I tried to use it with. Later, the feature stopped working entirely, and Soundscape went completely silent when other apps were playing. If I hit pause, then Soundscape would return while the other app was paused, but if I then hit play, the other app resumed playing and Soundscape went silent.

One more thing I would like to see is to set my current location as a point of interest for later use. Both BlindSquare and Nearby Explorer let me do this, but I don’t see a way to do it in Soundscape.

The app has a lot of promise, and I think this is a good first release, but it needs some work before I can use it regularly.

Submitted by AJ on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hi! Like the other post here, why the apps should be limited in some areas. Because im from philippines, the soundscape is working well. But it is working best on walking, it has some inconstancy on announcing names even i save the place. But over all the app is great to use hope for apple watch app.

This is the only gripe i have against the iOs platform, that everything is so damned anglocentric that every time a new promising app comes out, i first check the availability outside the states or the UK and when i find that the app is not available elsewhere i lose interest, shrug and tell my Swedish friends not to hold their breath because we probably never will see the app over here. We only have a couple decent GPS solutionds including Blindsquare but the real good apps like Seeing eye, the full Nearby explorer and others will never get here. That's why i pray that this Soundscape app will be the shining exception to the rule, but i don't hold my breath.
Having said this though, i have been wrong about apps in the past, at least as many times as i've been right, so please prove us non-english speaking users wrong again and make Soundscape available worldwide.

Submitted by Amos Miller on Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hi everyone, this is Amos from the Soundscape team here again. I wanted to explain the internationalization issue. You might find it hard to believe but the reality is that apps such as Soundscape may require regulatory clearance prior to release in certain regions. We have been investigating the matter with the EU, and other select countries, and getting closer to a resolution path to release in those regions. Be assured we are doing what we can although I know that doesn’t help folks in the short term.

Hi and thanks so much for the explanation and clarification. The reason why i went on a rant about this is that so very often we don't see the really good apps coming to places like Scandinavia and other countries, but it is good to know that you're working on this matter and don't leave us behind.
Again thanks.
/Krister

Submitted by charles on Thursday, March 8, 2018

In reply to by dvdmth

I hope that you did not use Microsoft Soundscape alone during your walk. You mentioned on how it is better in some aspects than Nearby Explorer. As a reminder, Microsoft Soundscape is to be used in conjunction with, not as a replacement for, full blown GPS apps like Nearby Explorer, just like Blind Square is to be used.

I found, during my initial 4 block walk, that Nearby Explorer in conjunction with Microsoft soundscape, Soundscape is a very good combination. One provides what the other lacks.

I do agree with you about allowing the use of my current location as a beacon for later use being a very desirable option, and hope they include this in a future update to the app. Microsoft has a good start on what could turn out to be a really great GPS companion app.

Submitted by dvdmth on Thursday, March 8, 2018

Club AppleVis Member

Let me clarify what I am looking for in Soundscape. I am definitely not expecting it to replace Nearby Explorer, but rather as an app that behaves more or less like BlindSquare does. Indeed, I would be using BlindSquare right now if it wasn’t dependent on the lousy Foursquare database for points of interest.

All I want to know when out and about is what streets I am approaching, along with the points of interest in the immediate vicinity. That is right in line with BlindSquare’s core functionality, and Nearby can be configured to work in more or less the same way. The other features of Nearby, such as turn by turn directions, virtual navigation, transit information, and so on, are beyond the scope of Soundscape and beyond what I am expecting Soundscape to do.

The thing that really got me excited about Soundscape’s behavior is how it announces upcoming intersections as I approach them. This is the one thing I am most interested in knowing while on a walk, and both Nearby Explorer and BlindSquare have disappointed me in the past in how this is handled. Nearby Explorer is way better than BlindSquare in the current implementation, but it still falls short of what Soundscape is doing. This feature alone is enough to make Soundscape a keeper for me, even if it is the only feature of the app I end up using.

Submitted by Jordan on Monday, March 19, 2018

Well I tried the app yesterday, and it bombed out big time. Not only did it not have POIs to any of the restaurants and other places in town I like going to, it only announced one street, and then it quit talking completely. If Microsoft is smart they will listen to the many of us who have had the same complaints that I have been reading on other lists I am on.

Submitted by Stuart Duncan on Monday, March 19, 2018

I really hope that Microsoft can sort out some problems that I've found during the short time I've had this app.

I've tried this app a few times, both while walking and in a vehicle. and I've found that it is very inaccurate and the maps are extremely old (for Dundee, Scotland). It quite often tells me I'm going in the opposite direction to the actual direction I'm travelling and describes places as being on my left when they are actually on my right. While walking down a main street, it told me about shops that have been closed for several years.

If Microsoft can sort out these problems, this could be a very useful app but until then, I'll stick with Blindsquare.

Submitted by charles on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I just checked the app store for updates, and this app has been updated. Among the changes is that you can enter an address and use it for a beacon. Check the app store to update your app.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Version 1.1

- A new and improved search experience for setting audio beacons and reference points. You can now search for an address, yes, you heard right, an address, and use the address as an audio beacon or a reference point!
- We’ve also included some improvements to how Soundscape works while in a vehicle, making sure that you hear important callouts as you are on a bus or in the car. Try also using the beacon while on a bus or in a car. We’d love to hear what you make of it.
- We have also been fixing various bugs to ensure that you have a smooth and pleasant experience with Soundscape.

Submitted by charles on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In reply to by sockhopsinger

Although I have searched in several ways, only my street is found. What would be nice is a way to set your current location, regardless of where it is, as a beacon. This would solve my current problem.

Submitted by Martin Gleeson on Thursday, March 22, 2018

In reply to by Jordan

I wasn't hearing any callouts (but the odd one or two at the start of my walk). I then turned callouts off (from the main interface) and closed the app. I then restarted the app and turned callouts on again, and that did the trick. I heard lots of intersection callouts after that. Try that if you are not hearing anything.

Submitted by cool cat on Friday, June 22, 2018

Hi! I'm in Canada so I don't have access to this app, but hopefully it's coming soon. I was wondering if it tells you the POI's and roads/streets in a vehicle whilst in travel. Also, whilst in a vehicle do you absolutely need headphones or a headset?

Submitted by JCecilli on Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Just wondering why this ap is not available in Canada on the Ap Store? Looks like every other ap produced by Microsoft is available except for this one. Will it be made available here?

Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, December 14, 2018

Hi everyone. Subject line pretty much says it all. I downloaded this app earlier today and it seems to work great. I was able to go through the set-up instructions and intro with absolutely no issues. When it asked me to create an audio beacon for a nearby location, I did so from my computer chair. The temporary beacon worked perfectly, but here's my question. Does this app give walking directions inside, or is it only to be used outside?

Submitted by Andromache on Sunday, April 28, 2019

I tested out Soundscape today and I love it. It's really useful to know which direction streets go at intersections, and Soundscape did this flawlessly. I love the 3D sound, and the beacon feature is really useful. Having this app has given me the confidence to walk around on my own because I can easily keep track of what streets I'm crossing. This frees me up to enjoy my walk more, and when I do need help from people, this app ensures I'm within sight of my destination so people don't have to go too much out of their way. Can't believe this thing is free.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Sunday, April 28, 2019

Since I idn't have a route to travel today, I decided to just test drive inside my house. the app is easy to set up. The app learning curve is simple. I set a beacon at my office chair. I walked to the furthest point across my house away from my chair and then returned. The beacon accuracy was very good. The beacon stopped working when I was within approximately 5 feet from my chair. Consider me impressed. I need real world live experience now but this looks really good so far.