Startup OW raises £1m to bring digital smells to metaverse

OW smell

OW Smell Digital, a tech company trying to digitise the sense of smell for use in metaverse applications, has raised £1m in seed funding in a round led by Parkwalk Advisors.

Founded as a spinout from the University of Sussex and UCL, OW is creating a digitally controlled multi-channel “Scent Delivery Device” and adaptive AI-powered, cloud-based software.

The funding will go towards expanding the team and furthering the development of its unique software and hardware products.

Emanuela Maggioni, founder and CEO of OW Smell Digital, said: “We are looking to interrupt a marketplace dominated by technologies reliant solely on sound, vision and increasingly, touch.”

She added: “Our sense of smell has the power to evoke long-forgotten memories, bring food to life, calm us down and enrich our lives.”

OW told UKTN that it has plans to be part of the much-discussed metaverse, describing smell as the “missing piece of the puzzle” to create a “truly immersive and lifelike-believable world”.

It has previously collaborated on virtual reality immersion experiences to provide an additional level of realism.

Smell-O-vision reborn?

The company described its technology to UKTN as “a kind of photoshop for smell” wherein the software communicates with the hardware to “predict the perceptual and behavioural effects scents have on each individual user”.

The hardware is comprised of up to 24 individual odour channels, while the software uses AI to determine the desired scent effect. This is then delivered to the modular device and can be made to coincide with another stimulus, such as a video.

The company has also described itself as seeking to be “for smell what Dolby and Adobe are to sound and vision”.

OW has three commercial areas it is targeting: health and wellbeing, immersive experience and innovative research.

OW is not the first company to attempt to commercialise so-called ‘smell-O-vision’. Over the past 100 years a handful of cinemas have experimented with introducing odours into movie theatres, with little success.

But OW isn’t just looking at entertainment. The startup told UKTN that its technology could one day be used to improve the “early-stage detection of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s”.