Microsoft has partnered with charity Guide Dogs to develop a new smart headset that creates a 3D sound map to help visually impaired people navigate better as well as discover more of the world around them.

Built into an existing piece of head wear that conducts sound through the jaw bone rather than covering the ears, Microsoft's 3D audio technology - as the firm calls it - delivers direction-based sound so that wearers not only know when they are approaching a point of interest, but also in which direction it is.

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Sound is played through the ear piece on either side at different levels depending on the direction it is from the user, and this changes in real time as they turn their head towards it.

It is the product of a partnership called Cities Unlocked.

Kirstie Grice, a visually impaired participant of the first round of trials said: "We want to live like normal people, we don't always want to plan ahead to see if we can get community transport, or a taxi or something, we want to be able to just jump on a bus and go somewhere and have that freedom."

The headset has been developed through these trials, and in collaboration with urban innovation firm Future Cities Catapult to create an experience that combines with an app on Windows Phone to help improve orientation, navigation and offer contextual information such as the location of shops and journey details.

When moving, the wearer is guided by a clicking sound that confirms they are on the correct route, which is combined with beeps that fade when users move off course.

Information is delivered via a voice assistant and is also accessible through the app, which is gesture-based to make it easy for those with sight loss.

The prototype device was initially the idea of Microsoft executive Amos Miller, who is visually impaired and had previously worked for Guide Dogs, and who wanted to be able to be more active with his daughter.

"This project started with a very common, but life-changing experience," he said.

"I became a father and I wanted to share in and enjoy every day experiences outside of the home with my daughter.

"Today we have taken a big step forward with the launch of our phase one trial.

"We have built a means to help people create a mental map in real time.

"By painting a picture of the world through sound, similarly to how a lighthouse guides with lights, we can remove much of the fear of new journeys and improve those which people are already familiar with."

According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RLIND), two million people in the UK are living with sight loss, with more than 285 million globally.

Cities Unlocked said around 180,000 registered blind people in the UK were not confident enough to leave their homes alone.

But research conducted by Microsoft's partnership after their initial trial found that 62% of participants had an increased feeling of safety and confidence.

Because the headset sources data from places like Bing, as well as Google, in order to provide the real time data as new locations and points of interest appear close to you, the Windows maker are keen to stress that the device could also have real-world benefits for those without vision problems, because of the information on offer.

"This kind of technology can really help the visually impaired, and it could also make our cities much more accessible for everyone", Future Cities Catapult CEO Peter Madden said.

The headset has been developed in the UK, and Mr Madden believes that it presents an opportunity for cities and businesses too.

"The UK can be a world leader in using technology and data to make cities better," he said.

"This will only improve the quality of life for those of us that live in cities - it's also an enormous business opportunity."

The software flags up shops and businesses, as well as points of interest, and Microsoft said this was something they would continue to explore.

The headset remains a prototype for now, but Microsoft confirmed it would continue to trial its use.