I’m a fragrance fan – not the noxious mall stuff, though. I stick to the niche world because it smells much more interesting and natural. So I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want AI to be used in drafting a new perfume. But Philyra, a virtual think tank which analyzes hundreds of fragrance industry formulas and trends, definitely poses great value for the mass market perfume industry.
By plumbing this data, Philyra can make formula recommendations to perfumers which are “safe” enough to be mass marketable, but “different” enough not to have been used before.
How does it work?
IBM Research teamed up with Symrise, an international producer of flavors and fragrances, to produce this AI perfumer’s apprentice.
According to an IBM blog, the research team used previous flavor and recipe creation work as a model for Philyra.
“It is a system that uses new and advanced machine learning algorithms to sift through hundreds of thousands of formulas and thousands of raw materials, helping identify patterns and novel combinations. Philyra does more than serve up inspiration – it can design entirely new fragrance formulas by exploring the entire landscape of fragrance combinations to discover the whitespaces in the global fragrance market.”
Specifically, the algorithms predict:
- alternative raw material complements and substitutes
- appropriate dosing for a raw material based on usage patterns
- the human response (pleasantness and gender appropriateness)
- the novelty of the fragrance by comparing it to a large set of commercially available fragrances
Symrise says they’re planning on using the technology for other products, such as home and personal care. But of course, Philyra could be an example for other industries to learn from.
Again: as a perfume fan, I generally do not care to stick with the “safe” options. I enjoy a challenge, and thus far, it seems like Philyra is not designed to recommend such olfactory inquisitions.
I’m also not quite comfortable with using technology to distinguish “gender appropriateness” — something I personally hope the perfume industry does away with entirely.
But I will say I’m a tad curious to sniff something a computer thinks smells nice.