On the Microsoft Research NExT Enable Team, we are tasked with navigating the challenging space of taking cutting edge technology for people with disabilities to market. The most recent project our team has released is Microsoft Soundscape, a map that is delivered in 3D audio for people with visual impairments. Microsoft Soundscape uses 3D audio technology to enhance users’ ambient awareness, enabling users to get around and explore their surroundings in ways they may not have done before. Soundscape places audio cues and labels in 3D space such that they sound like they are coming from the direction towards the points of interest, parks, roads and other features in a user’s surroundings. In this talk I will discuss what Soundscape is and how it works, how we designed and developed it, and what we learned in taking it from a wild idea to a real product.
I’m a Research Software Engineer working on the MSR NExT Enable Team where we are developing exciting new technologies for and with people with disabilities. I’m currently working on the Microsoft Soundscape project and have worked on several Hands-Free projects in the past. In Spring of 2016, I received my second M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington. I was co-advised by Maya Cakmak (Human-Robot Interaction) and Richard Ladner (Accessibility) and collaborated with Merrie Ringel Morris at Microsoft Research. My master’s qualifying exam was based on the AACrobat system I built at MSR in the summer of 2015. In AACrobat, we attempted to address many of the current communication issues in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for people with neuromuscular diseases like ALS by redesigning an AAC system from a groupware perspective. This work was presented at CSCW 2017. Following up on this work in the summer of 2016, I developed a “voicesetting” system for AAC users in an attempt to enable AAC users to control the emotional and expressive features of their synthesized voices. This work will be presented at CHI 2018. In May of 2014, I graduated with my first M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno. My master’s thesis research surrounded the development of assistive technologies related to spatial perception for people with visual impairments. Prior to my work in computer science, I earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Magna Cum Laude) from UNR.