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Established: March 1, 2015

Where in the world – with Microsoft Soundscape

April 13, 2020

Hello, I’m Steven Abrams and I lead our Quality Assurance on the Microsoft Soundscape team. I spend a lot of time with people who are blind or low vision and their mobility instructors. I wanted to share with you a fun experience you can try while at home.

The other day it was pouring with rain, so there was no way I was heading outside, even to test our latest version of Soundscape. A friend suggested using Soundscape to find out how far away we were from famous places in the world.

It’s pretty simple. I tapped the “Set Audio Beacon” button and then in the Search field I searched for the Empire State Building. As I typed, Soundscape started to display some suggestions. At the top of the list was the Empire State Building about 5530.25km (3436.4 miles) away. I selected it and I could hear the Audio Beacon. Standing up, with the phone flat in my hand and my headphones on I gently turned in an arc until the audio beacon sound changed indicating that I was now facing the Empire State Building.

Aerial view of Empire State Building in New York
Microsoft Soundscape Home screen showing an audio beacon set on the Empire State Building

I then selected “My Location” and it told me that I was “Facing West”. So, I now knew that the Empire State Building was 5530.2km (3436.4 miles) west of my location, and here I was, facing in its direction. I could almost see it in my mind’s eye.

Can you guess roughly where I was? I will give you another clue.

I removed the audio beacon on the Empire State Building and typed “Paris” into the Search box. Soundscape immediately displayed that “Paris was only 370.8km south east” of my location (231.4miles).

Eiffel Tower and Seine River in the morning, Paris, France

So… here is where the fun starts. Where do you think my location was when I made these searches? Post your answers on our Microsoft Soundscape page on Facebook and send us clues as to where you are too!

Mental mapping is one of those skills that help us to orient ourselves when we are out and about. When you are at home try playing this mental mapping guessing game. Try to guess in which direction a known landmark might be, and then set a beacon to it and see if you were right. For example, you can start off with places and landmarks in your neighbourhood, before trying places in other parts of the world.

Another thing to try is to guess where one landmark is relative to another. For example, I placed an audio beacon on Buckingham Palace and faced towards it. I could imagine it in my mind’s eye approximately 54km (33.5 miles) in front of me. Then I set an audio beacon to Regent’s Park and I could hear that it was also 52.8km (32.8 miles) away but a little to the left of the palace. So, I knew that the park was a little distance to the north of the palace.

screen shot of roadmap from Reading to Buckingham Palace

Doing these exercises can be fun and will improve your mental map of the world around you as well as exercise your mental mapping muscle. You can even play this game with the family.

With care,
Steven and the Microsoft Soundscape team

Helpful tips

Using Filters to find places in your neighbourhood

When you select “Set Audio Beacon”, on the Set a Location screen there are already two filters that you can use. They are as follows:

  • Public Transit – this will show places like bus stops or local taxi businesses
  • Food & Drink – this will show restaurants, cafes and other places where you can eat and drink
  • All Places – this shows a list of a variety of places and landmarks near to you; plus, you can find additional filters from here as follows:
    • Things to Do
    • Groceries
    • Banks & ATMs

Recently selected places

Microsoft Soundscape will store the last 5 places in this list making it easier for you to use them again.

Find more Soundscape tips & tricks >

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