VR Simulation Company Using Scent to Stimulate & Access Memory
An abbreviation for Olfactory Virtual Reality, OVR Technology is a VR simulation company that uses scent to stimulate and access memory in ways that transform cognition, emotion and behavioral responses. Made up of an alliance of researchers, practitioners and technologists, the company emerged from the urgent need for powerful new approaches to cognitive therapy that combine olfactory engineering and today’s cutting-edge virtual reality technology to deliver powerful real-world benefits.
“OVR Technology sees the potential of virtual reality to positively change the way we think, learn, heal, connect and play. We believe our oldest, most primal sense, smell, is the key to unlocking that potential. We leverage our technology and team to produce better outcomes in health, wellness, education, training and the arts,” said OVR Technology CEO and co-founder Aaron Wisniewski. “Currently, we are very interested in using our platform to expand access to the tools and benefits of integrative health for patients and care providers across the globe.”
Wisniewski added that there is a rapidly-growing demand for integrative and alternative medicine that has created a massive unmet need for patients. He says the pressure to meet that need has fallen almost entirely on healthcare providers, who must quickly adapt.
“It’s not just the patients who want this change, most care providers understand the benefit of a ‘whole health’ approach, but struggle to provide the resources to their patients,” said Wisniewski. “OVR Technology offers a wellness platform that includes the benefits of meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, next generation aromatherapy and digital therapeutics in a single, flexible, scalable and cost-effective package.”
Ultimately, OVR Technology’s mission is to impact social and environmental causes, research, collaboration, futurism, human life, mental and physical health through VR development. According to the company, smell may be the oldest and most undervalued sense, but smell holds the key to improved virtual immersion and presence.
“By introducing this powerful sense into virtual experiences, we can create the same type of realism and emotional depth that we get from genuine, real-life activities, and therefore dramatically increase feelings of presence. More presence equals better, more effective experiences,” explained Wisniewski. “Whether you are using VR for the ultimate gaming experience, or as a tool to help war veterans with crippling PTSD, leveraging scent to increase presence will amplify the outcomes.”
The idea for the company’s technologies, Architecture of Scent and the ION device, was born through a thought experiment with Champlain College. The experiment was based on the idea that scent in VR could increase immersion. Once the idea for the ION was solidified, the OVR Technology team initiated a thorough exploration of possible technological and design solutions.
Designs began on paper and whiteboard and evolved using the iterative design process, as the company experimented with a wide range of form factors, scent actuators, liquid formulations and other properties to optimize both the technology and the user experience. OVR Technology’s unique approach is a combination of hardware, software and scentware, and was developed in three steps:
- Step 1: How does nature do it? By decoding the natural process of scent creation and diffusion, OVR Technology was able to design a microtechnology that accurately mimicked scent. Unlike nature, OVR Technology has complete control over the experience, tuned right down to the parts per million and millisecond.
- Step 2: In harnessing the power of scent, visualize the invisible. The natural sensory world is a chaotic soup, but by classifying scents as a set of geometries with predictable behavior, the company was able to translate them into a digital framework that can be applied to any virtual content. As the user collides with this invisible geometry, the appropriate sensory experience is triggered.
- Step 3: What exactly are the scents we are constantly inhaling, and how can they be recreated? By using a combination of analytical chemistry and sensory expertise, OVR Technology developed a system to capture, catalog and recreate the aromatic world, one scent at a time. The company now has a substantial internal library and is constantly growing.
OVR Technology’s “Architecture of Scent” — hardware, software, and scentware — works together wirelessly and effortlessly to understand behavior in the virtual world, and release precise olfactory impressions at exactly the right moment. The platform includes ION, a lightweight wireless device that precisely emits scent particles to the user in coordination with virtual reality technology designed to deepen the immersive experience.
The ION is the most accurate and precise mask scent device available. The Architecture of Scent framework translates VR movements and inputs into real-time scent output. The patented technology allows for 0.1 millisecond bursts of scent, and can change between scents in 20 milliseconds.
The production of scent and the ability to perceive, interpret and act upon this sense is an extremely complex biological mechanism. Although modern humans rely more heavily on vision than their ancestors, the sense of smell still allows individuals to understand and navigate the world.
OVR has simplified the brain’s natural system for interpreting scents and making sense of them by distinguishing them into two languages: one for humans and one for computers, with the inclusion of a software suite that lets them communicate. ION is controlled via Wi-Fi or USB, and the ION easily adapts to most major HMDs.
“We are excited and encouraged by the community response to what we are doing. We now have an alliance of researchers, practitioners and technologists to use scent to stimulate and access memory in ways that transform cognition, emotion and behavioral responses,” said Wisniewski. “Every day it seems more and more people are recognizing how powerful a role scent plays in our lives, and how much better and more effective virtual experiences can be when scent is woven in.”
Lindsey Nolen is the Content Director for HealthySimulation.com. She is an award-winning journalist with years of experience writing about the many different facets of healthcare, including clinical simulation education and training. She also helped create content for the healthcare career information website, CareersinHealthcare.com.