Microsoft is launching a prototype version of its 3D soundscape technology that allows visually impaired people to navigate with ease thanks to verbal cues. Created in collaboration with charity Guide Dogs UK and urban design firm Future Cities Catapult, the technology involves pairing a Windows Phone with a bone conducting headphones. The smartphone is used to communicate with indoor and outdoor sensors, and relay that information to the headphones, which in turn transmit the information directly to your inner ear.
Microsoft states that the technology is "an audio-rich experience in which the headset, smartphone and indoor and outdoor beacons all work together to enhance the mobility, confidence and independence of people with vision loss."
To ensure that you can always listen to verbal cues, the headset will suggest a route that features boosted Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals. The verbal cues include anything from GPS navigation, nearby points of interest notifications, real-time bus and train times, and even navigating directions for indoor locations, like a grocery store. Since the bone-conducting headphones rest against the sides of your head, you will be free to listen to environmental noise. Microsoft states that while the technology is primarily designed to assist visually impaired people navigate, it may also see usage in activities like checking train arrival times or exploring a foreign city.
To know more about the technology in action and see how the audio cues work in real life, head to Microsoft Stories. As the technology is still in its nascent stages, Microsoft is limiting prototype testing to Windows Phone devices. Once it is closer to a wider release, we'll see compatibility with other mobile platforms.
What do you guys think of Microsoft's 3D soundscape technology?
Thanks Jason and Rokibul!