1. Tell us about the journey since OVR’s launch.

We believe that virtual reality has the power to change the way we think, behave, heal, play, interact, and learn. Our mission is to create more immersive and emotionally engaging, outcomes-based virtual and digital experiences by leveraging our oldest and most primal sense — scent — and pairing it with today’s most powerful technology. Since our launch in 2017, we have held steadfast to our mission. 

Over the last four years, we’ve evolved from five founders sitting in front of a white board , to a full team of strategists, scientists and engineers who are passionate about bringing safe, realistic scent to VR. We have developed strong partnerships with leaders in academia, healthcare, education and training, and (maybe most importantly) we have accurately reproduced the complex sensory world around us in virtual reality. We have invented a technology that people have been attempting to create for almost 100 years. Our nearly weightless microtechnology produces scent on-demand by understanding user behavior in the virtual world. Now, this product we conceptualized and built is benefitting people in the real world.

2. How are you applying transformative technology to create a positive impact?

We’re using the tools we have developed to positively impact health outcomes. 

We are working with the US military as well as academic partners, like Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo at USC, on developing tools to help support the mental health and wellbeing of military veterans and service members. 

We are working with detox and rehabilitation facilities to positively impact the patient experience and health outcomes. Recently, we announced our partnership with Ketamine One, a next generation wellness company focused on ketamine assisted therapy and psychedelic medicines. They will provide OVR Technology’s INHALE Wellness Platform to patients through their network of mental health clinics. 

We also completed a study with the University of Vermont Medical Center that evaluated the use of olfactory VR as part of a treatment for patients experiencing stress and anxiety. What we have discovered is that olfactory VR can be a powerful tool in mental health care interventions and treatments.  We have also collaborated with Australian artist Daniel Stricker on his Global Village Project, aimed at generating empathy via VR experiences that place the user within communities experiencing severe weather impacts due to climate change. We have learned that the applications of our technology are broad, but that our mission remains constant — better virtual reality, better reality. 

3. What has been your biggest challenge as founder, and how have you learned from it?

The challenge with any emergent technology is that the market for it does not exist yet. We’re not just building another widget or app, we’re creating a new vision for the future and encouraging others to go along for the ride with us. We needed to get skilled at accurately communicating that vision and inspiring others to believe in it and that is very difficult.  

On top of that, when you’re a founder you have to wear all of the hats – finding time to take care of yourself as well as the business can be a challenge. You also need to have an almost absurd combination of unbridled optimism and pragmatic pessimism. You start out with a vision and the excitement of that dream, then the bills come in, or you don’t have the skills required to accomplish something. You are solving problems of all kinds 24/7. Every day is full of challenges we did not anticipate, and you have to deal with them without missing a beat. As difficult as that is, there is nothing we would rather be doing, because the reward of solving those problems and breaking through those barriers is invaluable. Every day is really exciting. Around every roadblock is the road to the future.

4. What role has Newlab played in helping you advance OVR?

So much of being a successful start-up is about creating and nurturing the right relationships that can lead to massive creative, technological, or commercial outcomes. Newlab understands how valuable that is to us and fosters the right relationships, at the right times, and provides access to resources that would otherwise be out of reach.

Being a part of the Newlab community is energizing and enriching, and it also helps us make smart decisions about our technology and market strategy. We’re based in Burlington, Vermont, not Silicon Valley or New York City, so having a connection to the business, investment, technology networks through Newlab provides us with access to a major global hub.

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