A DIY toolkit for digital sound walks

This list of digital tools and platforms for creating sound walks updates a list we compiled for a British Library blog, that complemented the Exploring with Sound Walks event in the run up to Sound Walk Sunday in 2019.
As we continuously receive individual requests from creatives, asking what are the best digital tools for creating a sound walk, we decided it was time for a more elaborate list describing the right tools for creating your own sound walk.
However, as these lists are never exclusive, complete, nor definite, please send us additions, comments, and suggestions, as well your views on any of the tools below.

We’ve grouped locative media software in six categories:

  • Recommended and tested for sound walk creatives
  • Audio guides and audio tours
  • Locative maps
  • “Hacked” hiking software
  • Virtual sound walks
  • Build it yourself

Recommended and tested for sound walk creatives 

If you have the objective to realise a more creative sound walk, we are currently aware of four open access platforms for creatives working with sound, that are also low budget or free, one platform that’s in beta, and one that is planned for release in 2021.
They offer easy-to-use online editors and include advanced sound features, such as layering. You upload your own recordings, together with text and photographs, and the sounds are available via an app, or web app, for those consuming your work, walkers. We recommend the following excellent platforms, which we have personally tested, both as creators and users.

Echoes

Screenshot of Echoes.

Echoes Creator is an easy tool to quickly upload audio, images, and text, to geolocate and layer them on an online map, and to publish them for the world to hear. You need only to construct shapes on a map, which then trigger content when your listeners physically walk ‘inside’ them.
Works with an app.

Free, with additional paid plans.

Locosonic

Locosonic describes itself as being designed for creating “movies for your ears”. Locosonic links sounds, music, and stories to a location. The editor has advanced tools for sound artists and musicians, but as well easy features for beginners. It includes a built-in interface to the Freesound database, so you can create sound walks without your own recordings; just search, browse and use more than 100.000 sounds published under permissive licences!

Free for sound walks up to 30 minutes. 

Sonic Maps

At the core of the SonicMaps platform is an easy to use online editor, both for beginners and advanced users, with plenty of features. The sound walks are accessible via a (web)app as a regular sound walk, but as well in a desktop map mode. Sonic Maps also offers the facility to create locative soundscapes on-the-go during your walks, and provides analytics, text-to-speech, and embedding of sound maps in your own blog or website.
Works as an app and as a web-based app.

Prices start at 36 euros for a 3 month plan.

Radio aporee

Radio aporee – miniatures for mobiles is a platform for creating sound walks, and has been around for about a decade. It is a very basic tool, but easy to use for beginners, and for sound artists that prefer it simple. Sound walks are created and organised by a web-based editing tool and listened to with a mobile phone app.
In addition to the phone app, there is also a  browser-based web app.

Free. 

Soundtrails Creative Sandpit

The newest software, available since March 2021, is Creative Sandpit from Soundtrails, the first platform to allow easy creation of STX files – portable immersive geolocation story-telling experiences that can be embedded in a website or experienced on location via the Soundtrails App. This apps simultaneously creates sound maps that can be embedded in any website as a locative audio walk.

Free (during 2021).

Gesso Creator Tool (from 2021)

Another new piece of software is Gesso Creator Tool, which allows you to create linear and non-linear audio walks- by dropping pins on a map. They also make prototyping easier by machine-generating voiceover so you can test the script and timing.​ It is free and available through the Gesso website.

Audio guides and audio tours

There exists a broader number of open access platforms for audio walks and audio tours, with sometimes more basic features for sound, but often allowing as well to add photographs, regular videos, 360-videos, augmented reality, QR codes, and iBeacons-based content for indoor exploration. 

Guidemate

guidemate is an online platform for creating audio walks with a combined focus on tourism, artistic audio walks, and educational tours created by schools or universities, with now over 300 guides in 15 countries. The platform combines the audio walk with an online map for desktop, allowing remote access to the walk. Guidemate is also issuing a yearly money prize Audiowalk-Award for innovative projects made with their platform.
Works as an app and mobile web.

Free. 

VoiceMap

VoiceMap is a tool for creating audio tours. It allows for adding voice,music, photos, 360 videos, and 3D files. As a creator you can guide your audience around your city. VoiceMap also allows for monetising your tour.
Works as an app. 

Pricing for creators available on request.

Your AudioTour

The Your AudioTour editor allows uploads of your own maps, to integrate QR codes, and provides text to speech in 7 languages. It works on mobile devices and on desktop. You can add your own branding and monetize your tour.
Works as an app and mobile web.

Your AudioTour offers a free basic plan, next to paid plans starting at 29 USD per month. 

Locatify 

Locatify enables storytelling and gamification through mobile apps and location-based technologies. Locatify has facilitated 20,000+ projects in more than 30 countries and is a pioneer in location-based technology for mobile apps, and has picked up multiple awards along the way. The audio tours allow for the integration of beacons, for indoors use.
Locatify works as an app and as mobile web.

Their Tour Guide editor is free and their app is available for a limited free use of 48 hours. Prices start at 69 euros (education) and 129 euros (NGO) per year.

Guidigo

Through Guidigo Studio, you can create your audio walk project without needing extra tools. Recording and editing can be done on the spot. You can add sound, photos and videos. The app provides image recognition, and support for beacons for indoor use.

Free 30 day trial. Plans start at 75 euros per month. 

GPSMycity

GPSMyCity allows you to create your own audio tour. Tours are available in 1000+ cities.

Free. 

izi.TRAVEL

izi.TRAVEL is the largest audio tour platform for the travel market, with thousands of content providers and a total of 15000 audio tours, worldwide. Multimedia guides (sounds, images and videos) for travelers can be created easily.

Free.

Locative maps

Then, there are platforms that offer maps that you can walk, physically or remotely, in a format of hybrid digital locative storytelling, accessible simultaneously on desktop and on mobile web. 

CGeomap

CGeomap is a geo-storytelling tool allowing up to 20 users to work simultaneously, together, on an digital storytelling mapping project with up to 5 simultaneous maps, connected to a locative web app. You can add and combine audio, text, photo, video, weblinks and QR codes, and even move simultaneously through layered maps while walking, or activate different contents by zooming in/out on preset altitudes. 
Developed by GPSmuseum, Transnational Temps and escoitar, creators of the pioneering locative audio software noTours (service discontinued, but its open source code base stays available on Github), the software builds on their approaches toward dérive as a methodology, community involvement and Earth art (art with an ecological center) and has advanced features for locative literature.
Each project is designed individually, with a focus on collaboration and agency.

CGeomap is available as a full-service tier, with custom design, setup and configuration, training, conceptual and technical support, and hosting. The launch price in 2021 starts at 600 euros for a workshop-based project, at 950 euros for small sized projects with a permanent desktop map and a web-app, including customized support and workshops (example). For larger projects pricing starts at 6.500 euros, for up to 20 editors simultaneously with multiple maps (up to 5 maps simultaneously), including a locative webapp and native apps (Android and iOS).

Roundware

Roundware is a location-based contributory audio platform which was initially developed in 2007 by sound artist Halsey Burgund, intended as a kind of ‘anti-audio’ tour platform, in a similar spirit as noTours, mentioned above in the section on CGeomap.
Roundware is based on a non-linear, flexible, participant-driven, immersive experience. It is an open-source project and its codebase is available on Github.

Free.

Ojovoz

ojoVoz is a mobile/web platform that allows a group of people to collaboratively create dynamic, audiovisual documentation and maps of their common interests and concerns. You can create messages consisting of an image, a sound recording, tags and geographic information, and upload them to a shared website. The ojoVoz web platform allows you to browse your messages.
You can also visualize them on a map, filter them by tag, person or group, or edit them. You can install the ojoVoz web platform on your server and own your data.

Free. Not intended for the general public, but for small focused groups who want to use the tool for specific purposes.

Historypin

Historypin is a digital, user-generated archive of photos, videos, audio recordings and personal recollections. Users are able to use the location and date of their content to “pin” it on a Google Map. Where Google Street View is available, users can overlay historical photographs and compare it with the contemporary location.This content can be added and explored online and via a series of smartphone applications, making the maps accessible as well as usable as a kind of tour.
Mobile web and app.

Free. 

Curatescape

Curatescape is a web and mobile app framework for publishing location-based content using the Omeka content management system. It provides content creators and digital story tellers the ability to curate outdoor landscapes or indoor museum settings, publishing to mobile devices and the web. Clients received a mobile-optimized website and native apps for iOS and Android devices. Pricing from free (open source code available on Github, for web only) to serviced plans for 7.000 USD (web only) and 10.000 USD (web + apps for Android and iOS).

PlacePress

PlacePress is a WordPress plugin from the makers of Curatescape. It allows to document locations with locative content for WordPress website creators. It features a PlacePress Global Map that can be added to any page and automatically displays geolocated content (image, sound, video, text) on an easy-to-use (and easy-to-manage) interactive map.. As well the plugin allows to create virtual Tours. Still in development, with a functional beta version. Only for web.

Free

“Hacked” hiking software

Even with plenty of more appropriate services available as mentioned above, “hacked” use of hiking and running apps remains popular among walking artists and creatives. These kinds of platforms allow geo-blogging (of photographs, videos and texts) and GPS-tracking of your walks at the same time.

Ramblr and similar apps

Ramblr is a service to record and share your outdoor activities such as hiking, running, biking, skiing, kayaking, and more. 
Ramblr lets you see your route on a map with geotagged photos, video, notes along with descriptions, stats and more. Although no sound recordings can be uploaded, you can upload videos with sound. The Ramblr app, available for iPhone and Android, can record any of your outdoor activities, and after uploading them to the Ramblr website, you can share your trips via a weblink or social media. You can also create trips with a GPS file (gpx,kml) or a track editor tool. 

Viewranger offer similar functionalities, as do apps by smart- and sport-watch producers. 

Avenza Maps

Avenza Maps is used by many creators as a mapping tool for locative “field notes”, the preparation and sketching of a locative audio project on the terrain. With Avenza you can make a storyboard with photos and texts creating and walking in the territory itself.

Free basic plan, with paid advanced features.

Virtual sound walks

Particularly during the pandemic, there has been a huge demand for platforms that allow to create virtual sound walks. Although there are no specific platforms for sound, there are some tools available that can be used for this purpose. 

PlaceCloud

Placecloud is a straightforward platform which allows you to record stories and bits of knowledge about specific places, so that anyone can listen to them as they explore the world, physically or remotely. These ‘viewpoints’ are typically harvested from books.
PlaceCloud has a dual mission, to bring the physical world to life by populating it with viewpoints, and to provide ‘remote’ access to those places for those who can’t reach them in person.

Free. 

Google Tour Creator and Google Tour Builder

Google Tour Creator makes it easy to build immersive, 360° tours right from your computer.  You can use Tour Creator to create and publish virtual reality tours. You can use imagery from templates, Google Street View, or your own 360° image collection. Then, add sound, details and facts to the tour to create immersive experiences.

Google Tour Builder is a web-based storytelling tool which lets you easily create and explore stories and places around the world. You can create a tour of any subject of your choosing, zooming in to show the places where events took place, and easily integrating the story’s text, photos and videos. Your tour will take users from one place to the next along the storyline of your tour, immersing them in the relevant places through Google Earth’s imagery and the custom content you provide.

Both tools will be discontinued by Google in July 2021.

Free. 

Google Earth for Web

With creation tools now launched in Google Earth for Web, you can turn the digital globe into your own storytelling canvas, creating a map or story about the places that matter to you with 3D imagery.

Lapentor

Lapentor is a virtual tour editor, with directional sound, making it possible to realize remote sound and visual walks that you can walk from your desktop.
For mobile web or desktop. 

Free basic plan, with paid plans from 10 USD.

Paneek / Diveln Studio

Paneek allows you to create a fascinating 360-degree virtual tour, without having to install anything. In this app, you can comfortably add photos, sounds, videos, links, and text. It works on mobile and desktop. 

Free

Build it yourself 

The main disadvantage of most of the above mentioned tools is that they are not individualised and only provide standard features and design that may not fit your project quite like you would like them to. Your creative result is dependent on third party platforms (that may cease to exist) and of external hosting of your contents and data (with the risk that these may be used for other purposes in the future or be lost).
So you could go all-out and choose to build your own platform, as there are tools that allow this, even for beginners.

ARIS (legacy)

ARIS is a user-friendly, open-source platform for creating your own mobile games, tours and interactive stories, suitable for beginners.
Using GPS and QR Codes, ARIS users experience a hybrid world of virtual interactive characters, items, and media placed in physical space. The website contains detailed instructions allowing even beginners to create their audio walk, along with online courses for beginners to advanced creators.

Free. ARIS is no longer actively supported.

MapNav

MapNav is a Geolocation Engine for Unity, a cross-platform game engine and editor. Mapnav is a powerful tool to develop location-based apps and games, including 2d/3d object geolocation, GPS navigation, and online maps. You get started in minutes with the included prefabs and demo scenes and build to your platform of choice. Not ideal for beginners.

45 euros, once-off. 

Be inspired and let us know about your work

Check out our growing crowdsourced directory of sound walks around the world and let us know about yours. By including your work you are eligible for the next Sound Walk September Awards.

Disclaimer

Sound Walk September’s advisory board has representatives from Echoes and Soundtrails, and members of walk · listen · create’s coordinating team are involved in the development of CGeomap and PlaceCloud. This article was written nevertheless in the greatest possible objectivity and welcomes any addition.

Geert Vermeire

Geert Vermeire is a curator, poet and an interdisciplinary artist, living and working between Brazil, Greece and Belgium. As collaborator and team member of escoitar.org, noTours.org and CGeomap.eu, and co-coordinator of the global community event Sound Wa...

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