Whenever I’ve spoken to people who are visually impaired about their disability, they often say that they stick to visiting places they are familiar with and rarely dare explore new territory by themselves. Microsoft is working on a piece of assistive technology that they hope will change all that.

The device, known for now simply as 3D Soundscape technology, is a relatively discreet headset that provides audible tips to the traveller on where they are going. How they come across is varied:

1)      A series of clicks help keep the visually impaired user on track with walking in a straight line. The only down side is that it may feel like you’re being stalked by the Predator.

2)      If the walker veers off too close to the road a distinct ‘ping’ will sound in the left or right ear depending on which side the risk is.

3)      An automatic voice will alert the user of any roads, pavement edges, crossings, and points of interest. This could be just alerting the person that they are passing a certain shop, bus station, or it might even tell them a general point of interest.

The headphones are light and do not cover the user’s ears, so they can still naturally register sounds around them to help orientate them. The headset doesn’t quite claim to give eyesight to the blind, but what it does offer is a much better mental image of the surroundings to its user. This in turn can help embolden blind people and give them the confidence to go where they want, when they want, restoring to a degree their independence.


Those who have trialled the headset so far have given excellent feedback. And although they agree it takes a little bit of getting used, by the end of their first journey they don’t want to take it off. 

I leave you with a couple short videos with further details on the topic...


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