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OW - digitising the sense of smell

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by Startacus Admin


From healthcare to entertainment, London-based startup OW is on a mission to transform experiences by the use of digital smell technology.

logo (1)A sense of smell is something most of us take for granted. We don’t think about its importance, even when it can keep us alive when we smell a gas leak and blow out the candles, or smell smoke before we see the fire. It is a sense that evokes memories and nostalgia, improves good food, and can even change our mood, and it is underused (more often not used at all) in any entertainment or immersive experiences, such as The Walking Dead. For which we are thankful.

London-based smell-tech startup OW is aiming to be to scent what Dolby is to audio. With a combination of hardware and software, the startup can create another dimension to marketplaces currently dominated by sight and sound, adding to an atmosphere as much as good sound design or rumble feedback in fancy cinema seats.

OWidgets-_Robnew-edited.An easy example is to imagine watching a film and instead of only seeing the forest the characters are walking through, and hearing the wildlife: what if you could also smell the pine trees, the fresh dewy morning air, and the horde of rotting zombies chasing them? Or perhaps a better example would be the 2019 World Government Summit in Dubai, to which OW was invited to demonstrate in ‘TreeVR’, which transforms the VR user into a tree (it was not a horror experience, we’re told). In 2020, the startup’s similar work in making a VR experience titled ‘FLY’ a more immersive experience won them the 2020 Lumiere Award for Best VR Edutainment.

Of course, it’s not only entertainment and art that can benefit from OW’s platform. They are already working with Rockefeller University to create a standardised toolkit for smell testing, measuring olfactory senses. This comes off the back of winning a European Research Council Proof-of-Concept award in 2020 for their SmellHealth project, which was aimed at helping those with loss of smell - Anosmia - which, as mentioned, can come with health and safety concerns.

In March, OW announced that they had raised £1 million in a seed round led by Parkwalk Advisors. This will be used to further develop their product and help disrupt marketplaces dominated by the other senses.

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Published on: 1st April 2022

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