OWidgets is a start-up that enables the creation of novel multisensory experiences, especially through the integration of smell. OWidgets provides a hardware and software solution that enables everyone to design with smell. OWidgets’ ambition is to be for smell, what Adobe and Dolby are for vision and sound.
OWidgets’ technology is based on research and technology developed by the Sussex Computer Human Interaction (SCHI) Lab led by Marianna Obrist, Professor of Multisensory Experiences (Informatics) in the School of Engineering and Informatics. OWidgets’ co-founders are Dr Emanuela Maggioni (who holds a Royal Engineering Enterprise Fellowship) and Robert Cobden, graduate of the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex.
Our five senses help us make sense of the world. Yet current technology generally relies mostly on our visual and auditory senses. In extreme cases, this can have fatal consequences, such as if a driver’s eyes are distracted by visual information displayed in a car while driving. Research carried out by Professor Marianna Obrist and her lab shows people are able to establish links between a particular driving-related message, such as ‘slow down’, and a particular scent. Moreover, smell-based in-car technology could be used in autonomous cars to provide warning signals to drivers.
This is only one of many possible applications for smell as a new channel for information and interaction.
OWidgets enables everyone to capitalise on the power of smell to create novel, emotionally engaging, and memorable experiences that integrate smell to make best use of all the human sensory capabilities. Smell can be used to convey information when our other senses are busy, when we are experiencing visual overload, or when we can’t use our other senses, for instance in a dark or noisy environment. Moreover, smell has a direct link to emotions, making experiences more immersive and realistic, such as in virtual, augmented, and mixed realities.
Our technology solution can be flexibly and efficiently deployed in a variety of contexts. It could be employed by industry or by public institutions, such as museums and schools, but it also has the potential to enrich our everyday activities and lives. It can change how we work, learn, or relax. It can also provide added value for healthcare and medical applications, determining a patient’s ability to smell.
Exhibitions where OWidgets’s smell technology has been used:
- FLY VR - a multisensory VR experience that turned users into time-travelling pilots to experience the evolution of flying, exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London in August 2019 to celebrate British Airway’s 100th anniversary.
- Tree VR - a multisensory VR experience that allowed people to watch the growth of a tree in order to bring the effects of climate change and increased deforestation to life. It was presented at various global events, including at The World Economic Forum in Davos, in 2019 and 2020.
- Multisensory Dark Matter – a multisensory experience at the Science Museum in London helped users experience the fundamental reality of dark matter. People watched a simulation of the dark matter distribution in the universe, while all other senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) were stimulated. Watch a demonstration of the experience below.
OWidgets technology is protected by an International (PCT) patent application WO2019/207298.
The company was incorporated on 25 September 2019.