A startup has raised £1 million to bring the power of smell to technology experiences.

OW Smell Digital, a spinout from the University of Sussex and UCL, was founded by scientists Emanuela Maggioni and Marianna Obrist.

The seed funding, led by Parkwalk Advisors, will see it continue to develop technology that enables the digitisation of the human sense of smell. 

OW says it is looking to be for smell what Dolby and Adobe are to sound and vision: to transform an ecosystem dominated by the eyes and the ears. Its hardware and software controls and delivers scents and their unique perceptual effects.

The startup was founded as OWidgets off the back of a European Research Council Proof-of-Concept award. Its work crosses the arts, consumer industries, healthcare and research. 

The company is working with Rockefeller University (SMELL-RS) to create the first standardised smell-test toolkit to measure olfactory capabilities; with UCL to develop efficient and affordable smell-delivery technologies and smell training tools (SmellHealth, a second ERC PoC-funded project); and with commercial clients to deliver immersive reality experiences (British Airways, New Reality Co, Picture This Productions). 

“We are looking to interrupt a marketplace dominated by technologies reliant solely on sound, vision and increasingly, touch,” said CEO Maggioni. 

“Our sense of smell has the power to evoke long-forgotten memories, bring food to life, calm us down and enrich our lives. We create smell technologies that can be used across a range of innovative contexts. 

“From leading healthcare research to artistic and immersive experiences, our products offer a total digital command over scent and smell.”

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