Japan’s Vaqso secures $600,000 in seed round to add smells to VR experiences

The participants lined up at a press conference held in Tokyo on Thursday
From left: 2 representatives from Aoi Pro., Vaqso CEO Kentaro Kawaguchi, Weru Investment’s Keisuke Kikuchi, and a representative from Illusion

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Vaqso revealed at a press conference held on Thursday that they have raised around $600,000 in a seed round from Weru Investment, the investment arm of Waseda University. a Waseda University VC. At the same time, the company announced the pre-release of the company’s product Vaqso VR (semi-prototype) to developers, and are aiming for a full launch in winter of 2018. The funds raised will be used to cover the initial cost for mass production, as well as for PR costs and exhibition exhibits.

Since the launch back in January by Kentaro Kawaguchi who has been involved in promotional services for restaurants using smells, Vaqso has been developing VAQSO VR, a scent emitting device to attach to a head-mounted display (HMD).

Vaqso VR is about the length and width of a Snickers bar and can be attached to a HMD using a magnet. It synchs up with VR contents and it is possible to set different odor cartridges. Three types of odor cartridges can been installed in the prototype, with plans to increase this to 5-10 cartridges in the finished product. Also, the device is equipped with a small fan, which is currently under development, but by synchronizing the rotation speed of the fan with the VR content when the user moves closer to or away from the object in the virtual space it will be possible to strengthen or weaken the smell accordingly.

Coinciding with this funding announcement, the company also launched a smell production service for businesses where Vaqso is in charge of producing smells to be emitted in synch with VR content for content providers. Vaqso is mainly targeting ad agencies, gaming studios and companies, video production companies, etc. Corresponding to both VR 3D content and 360-degree video, it assumes use cases such as street promotion for food companies, science-fiction movie trailers, and simulating rescue operations at disaster scenes.

Vaqso will collaborate with Aoi Pro., a Japanese video production company that produces VR content title Wonderful World, and in addition to exhibiting at next week at the Content Tokyo 2017 confab. They will also join forces to Illusion, the adult game developer renowned for its signature game title VR Kanojo (literally meaning VR Girlfriend), to hold hackathon events, as well as exhibit at the Anime Expo in Los Angeles in July.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda