Smell disorders can detrimentally impact a person’s wellbeing. For example, when someone loses their sense of smell it can mean that food loses its flavour or their social interactions are impaired. This is especially relevant among an ageing population.
Current technological solutions to measure and train people’s sense of smell are not standardised or accurate, and are based on manual approaches such as soaked pens and scratch-and-sniff saturated materials. These manual approaches have shortcomings including a lack of control over smell stimuli, consistency of the smell delivery parameters such as intensity and concentration and a lack of comparable digital performance records to determine changes over time.
Dr Emanuela Maggioni and Professor Marianna Obrist are co-founders of OWidgets (Olfactory Widgets). Their company is developing patented digital, personalised, and automated smell training solutions that will enable standardised, comparable, and replicable smell stimuli.
OWidgets is looking to develop opportunities beyond the health and medical sectors. Its technology has been used by a creative studio exploiting multisensory elements to enhance participants’ immersion in a virtual reality project that has been displayed at the World Economic Forum in Davos and has long-term installations in Singapore and New York.
OWidgets is now developing a cloud-based software solution to help with smell training, including digital performance records. Smell disorders are associated with early onsets of degenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Retraining the brain to smell through regular exercises can positively impact cognitive capability and memory. An adaptive hardware system helps training usability and user experience, making it more engaging, and keeping people motivated to do the training regularly.
Dr Maggioni says: “We have partnered with Rockefeller University (SMELL-RS) to create the first automated and standardised smell test toolkit to measure smell capabilities and extending smell training. We aim to integrate the smell training into smell tests, akin to eye tests/hearing tests, as part of routine healthcare checks, promoting a culture of ‘sense of smell care’ and ‘smell physiotherapy’.”
She continues: “The Enterprise Fellowship has been a life-changing experience! The support of the mentors, the Enterprise team, the workshops and networking possibilities have been invaluable and positively impacted the growth and development of OWidgets.”
2017 – OWidgets receives equity-free funding from European Research Council’s Proof-of-Concept programme
2018-19 – OWidgets obtains its first international
clients and early technology adopters in the immersive experience sector
2019 – Dr Emanuela Maggioni was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship
2019 – OWidgets Ltd spun out from the University of Sussex
Visit their website: www.owidgets.co.uk