Mar 02 2018

Microsoft App Seeks to Help the Visually Impaired Navigate Cities

Soundscape, the new iOS app, offers 3D cues to illuminate city surroundings.

Microsoft has launched a new app that aims to augment many of the tools the visually impaired already use to navigate cities. Soundscape, the iOS app the company announced on Feb. 28, aims to empower the visually impaired to explore the world around them by providing a "3D audio experience," Microsoft's Chief Scientist and Distinguished Engineer Rico Malvar notes in a blog post on Microsoft's Accessibility Blog.

It calls on Microsoft technology to allow users to set audio beacons at familiar landmarks as well as uses audio cues that aim to "improve ambient awareness" as users navigate a city. It is not by any means meant to replace the tools already at the disposal of the visually impaired, however.

“Obstacle avoidance is not the problem, we have a dog, a cane and our blindness skills for that,” said Erin Lauridsen, Access Technology Director, LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco. “The gap is knowing where things are and being able to decide what's of interest.”