Microsoft Soundscape Update: Discontinued

Man sitting on bench holding iPhone with MS Soundscape app open on screen

by Chantelle Smith

Microsoft has announced the popular mobility app, Microsoft Soundscape is no longer available for download. Existing downloads of the app will work until the end of June 2023.

Microsoft Soundscape explored the use of innovative audio-based technology to enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident to get around. NCBI partnered with Microsoft Ireland in August 2021 to launch the app in Ireland which has since become an important navigation tool for many blind and vision impaired users internationally.

Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape was unique in its use of 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.

Since Microsoft’s announcement that the app has reached its conclusion, Soundscape has since been released as open-source software (For more information visit https://aka.ms/ossblog).

NCBI has engaged with Microsoft to express our concerns and frustrations at its decision. We know it gave users confidence to navigate in the community independently. The decision actually goes entirely against its own mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It ignores the significant impact it will have on the future mobility outcomes for people who are blind or vision impaired. NCBI is also working towards providing continuity of service for existing users after June 2023 and in collaboration with others are investigating future options for the app when Microsoft steps back completely.

If you are an existing user of the Soundscape app you can provide feedback directly to Microsoft until the end of June at jennylf@microsoft.com. The team will continue to focus on bug fixes and repairing service disruptions during this time.

If you are an existing user of the Soundscape app and require mobility support around these changes please email hello@possibilitylab.ie.