2 Kayakers on a lake using Soundscape

Microsoft Soundscape

A map delivered in 3D sound

What is Soundscape?

Microsoft Soundscape was a project from Microsoft Research that explored the use of innovative audio-based technology to enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and empowered to get around.

Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape used 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provided a new way to relate to the environment. It provided comfort in unfamiliar spaces, supporting individuals in making mental maps and personal route choices.

The Soundscape research project has reached its conclusion, and the project code is now released as open-source software. For more information visit https://aka.ms/ossblog (opens in new tab).

A short, illustrated video demonstration of Soundscape.

How did Soundscape work?

Soundscape provided information about your surroundings with synthesized binaural audio, creating the effect of 3D sound. It ran in the background in conjunction with navigation or other applications to provide you with additional context about the environment. Your phone, in hand or in pocket, tracked movement using location and activity sensors, and let you move toward a self-set audio beacon. Soundscape ran on iPhone SE, iPhone 6S or later and was compatible with most wired or Bluetooth stereo headsets.

Soundscape: graphic showing a headset with audio signals and app interface

Getting started with Soundscape

After you install Soundscape, connect a stereo headset or earbuds. Follow the introduction and when prompted, allow the app to access your location. Then, explore a familiar route to get used to how Soundscape delivers spatial information.

Soundscape: graphic showing audio signal locations

Explore, discover, and have fun!

You can use Soundscape in a number of different ways, whether on a well-known route, out about with a friend or using it to discover new places.

Soundscape: graphic showing chat boxes

Come on the journey with us…

Soundscape reflects a new concept, so it will take a little time to get used to. Please give it a go—and persist with it—to begin to experience the benefits.

Microsoft Soundscape is not designed, intended or made available for diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of diseases and for use as a mobility aid or medical device; and is not designed or intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or judgement and should not be used to replace or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or judgement. The mapping data incorporated into the Microsoft Soundscape program is captured from a third-party program, and therefore, there may be limitations with the accuracy of the information presented and the user is responsible for their actions and their own safety and well-being.​