In a tiny office in east Orange County, a company called Global Technology Integrators is creating thousands of smells meant to bring even more life to virtual reality.
And that means the hallway that leads to GTI’s office can smell like chocolate chip cookies — or something really, really foul.
The company’s products are helping amusement parks, military trainers and others bring scents into VR, a technology that mostly has focused on sight and sound so far.
“It’s all part of that world that we can simulate to a user,” said CEO Tony Oxford, who started the business about three years ago. “Smell is the particular sense your mind hones in on before any other sense.”
In recent years, virtual reality has become a multibillion-dollar business, with uses emerging in military training, at amusement parks and in education.
Smells already are being used at the VR attraction called The Void at Disney Springs, as part of a scenario based on Disney’s huge movie franchise “Wreck-It Ralph.”
In a 15-minute scene, the player is immersed in a short battle with cartoon rabbits, which fling cupcakes at the screen. When they hit, players can actually smell the cupcakes through a sweet scent that comes into the room.
Oxford did not say whether The Void is a client, but he did say that he has sold scents to amusement parks.
The industry remains somewhat new, with a Japanese startup last year earning headlines for raising $600,000 in funding to develop its own smell enhancements to VR experiences.
GTI gets its base smells from a French company that supplies the perfume industry. The company then adds other liquids with specific scents to make their final products.
Its pleasant scents include cookies, campfires and an ocean breeze.
But they can also include nasty ones such as decaying flesh, bad breath and raw sewage that can be used in military, medical or other training programs.
In all, GTI employs 12 people at UCF’s Business Incubator and creates 2,000 scents. Other examples include meth lab, peanut butter, jet fuel, skunk and hot apple pie.
The company has landed work by subcontracting portions of deals worked out with the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines.
In addition, Oxford said his products can be used by merchants who want to promote something — for example, enhancing the smell of vanilla at an ice cream shop.
Creating the specific aromas can take a chemist’s touch, but it’s important to be careful.
Taylor Oxford, an intern who is the CEO’s daughter, once accidentally spilled some decaying-flesh aroma on her Vans shoes. She wiped it off and didn’t think much of it when she put the shoes in her closet.
But days later, the scent came roaring back at her when she opened the closet door.
“I came home and thought, ‘What smells so bad?’” she said. “But it was when I lived at home, so everyone already knew what it was. But it was pretty bad.”