Soundscape, and the way I use it

Soundscape Community in white writing next to graphic of headphones

After last week’s exciting announcement about the new Soundscape Community app from NCBI IA labs and its partners, we are going to discover some use cases for the app and the different ways some people use it.

If you have not heard of Soundscape, it is an app you can download on your iPhone that helps you explore and learn your surroundings using 3D spatial sound. It calls out streets and intersections and you can create Markers and you can even follow an audio beacon for navigation to a destination.

Personally, the way I use it is strictly as a Points of interest finder or if you prefer to describe it as finding out what places I am passing as I walk by them. I use a pair of AirPods Pro in transparency mode, this allows outside sounds into the airpods for safety while listening to announcements from the Soundscape Community app.

In my small town, I rarely use it because I know it so well but when I go to a bigger town or city, I like to know what I am passing by. So, if I am in Kilkenny or Dublin City, I will turn it on and listen, shops and points of interest will be called out. The ones on my left will be announced in my left ear and you might have guessed the ones on my right are announced in my right ear. This gives me a great sense of awareness of what’s around me and it is also great for letting me know when I am passing little service roads and intersections.

Soundscape also has a feature called an Audio Beacon which you can attach to a specific location nearby and walk to it. The beacon makes a changing sound as you walk to the destination. You can also make this sound give you haptic feedback if you prefer. Some people love this type of guidance.

Personally, I do not find the audio beacon useful it does not suit my way of listening, when I am navigating, I prefer spoken directions from an app like Apple Maps. But my colleague David on the other hand uses them quite extensively.

David uses beacons in many different ways. When walking to a location for the first time he’ll set a beacon on the destination, pointing his phone in different directions and following the sound. While it won’t get you to the door 100% of the time, this is a nice way to get close enough to a location so you can be spotted or ask for assistance.

Another use David found for beacons was as an alert for getting off a bus. Let’s say you need to get off at a certain stop. You can put a beacon on a shop nearby, and listen as the distance to the beacon decreases, bringing you closer to your stop. Soundscape isn’t built for this and David has said he’d like to see optimisations to better support this use case, but it goes to show you can be creative with how you use the app.

David and I in many ways live quite similar lives, but we use Soundscape in completely different ways. There are people using Soundscape for everything from basic navigation to canoeing, which in many ways is a testament to its versatility

Download Soundscape Community on the App Store.