Burlington virtual reality firm passes the sniff test

Burlington virtual reality firm passes the sniff test

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – More and more tech companies are putting down roots in the Green Mountains, and despite Vermont’s size one virtual reality company is stirring up big changes in the industry.

At OVR Technology in Burlington, virtual reality is the name of the game. But it was a novel idea some four years ago that sets this business apart from its competitors.

“I was driving down the street one day — up 89 actually — and I called Aaron, who is one of our co-founders as well, who I knew from his flavor and fragrance business. And I asked him, ‘Aaron, have you ever thought about scent and VR together? And I’ll never forget what he said. He said, ‘I think about it all the time,’” said Dave Stiller, OVR’s co-founder.

Fast forward and OVR Technology is the self-described industry leader of VR you can smell. Their MO is not virtual games, but instead, virtual experiences to contribute to health and wellness –waterfalls, sea shores, or rose gardens to instill a sense of calm. When we gave it a go, it was a campfire experience roasting a marshmallow, and you could smell it.

But developments like this didn’t happen overnight. “There wasn’t a road map to follow. Everyone had a different opinion about whether it was a good idea, how it should work. So, it’s been a lot of learning, kind of like building the airplane while you’re flying type of metaphor,” Stiller said.

It began with a prototype and has progressed to world-class technology that is produced on the shores of Lake Champlain by the OVR team. And their hard work is paying off, recenlty bringing home a well-recognized, industry award.

“It feels like we’re on the right path, you know? We’ve been working really hard to get here and it’s nice to have that work recognized and the product be recognized,” Stiller said.

At the Augmented World Expo, the Burlington-based crew went up against some companies worth billions and took home best in show.

Co-founder Matt Flego and other team members say the award is really validating. “But really, at the end of the day, people really just have to try it. And so that process of education has to do with us doing tons of demos,” Flego said.

OVR Technology is currently operating with a B2B business model, so you can’t get these for your home. However, they say they love having people demo their products at shows like the Auggies to show how realistic scent can make the VR experience. They say their booth often had a massive line of people waiting to give it a go.

Flego says the industry is still struggling to give users a completely realistic experience but they believe scent can fill a massive gap. With an award in hand, the company says they’ll be working to figure out new ways to bring people together via headset. “The future for our industry is huge and bright and I think it’s only going to get better from here,” Flego said.

Stiller says he hopes that one day that this technology can advance as far as connecting families. His dream is to be able to get on a headset and be able to smell your grandmother’s sunscreen or meatballs cooking on the stove without actually being there. While that dream is far off, they do have some new hush-hush projects in the works as their company continues to grow.

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