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AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

Posted November 10, 2018 12:00 AM by M-ReeD

Good news for those of you still scratching your heads over the continued success of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds or those of you with the potent stench of Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth still occupying olfactory space…even decades after the perfume has been on the market. There is a new fragrance boss in town.

A profession heavily reliant on human sense of smell could one day be outsourced to artificial intelligence (AI) if engineers from the Thomas J. Watson Research Center at IBM have their way.

The team of engineers has been developing an AI system that could potentially be responsible for selecting the scents in air fresheners, laundry detergent and perfume.

Working in collaboration with global flavor and fragrance producer Symrise to determine fragrance trends as well as materials used to manufacture fragrances, the team created an AI system dubbed Philyra.

“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," wrote IBM Research principal research scientist Richard Goodwin.

To develop Philyra, the team programmed the AI to develop an aptitude for predicating fragrance trends based on already popular fragrances.

“In the case of fragrances, the art and science of designing a winning perfume is something humans have explored for hundreds of years," Goodwin wrote. "Now, perfumers can have an AI apprentice by their side that can analyze thousands of formulas and historical data to identify patterns and predict novel combinations, helping to make them more productive, and accelerate the design process by guiding them towards formulas that have never been seen before.”

Already, Philyra has been used to create two unique fragrances from a database of smells. Those scents were reviewed by a master perfumer who made edits to the fragrances when necessary, and the results will be available next year through global beauty company O Boticario.

"Symrise’s longer-term goal is to introduce this technology to their master perfumers around the globe and continue to use the solution for the design of fragrances for personal care and home care products," the companies explained. "Symrise also plans to introduce Philyra into their Perfumery School to help train the next generation of perfumers, firmly embedding AI into the heart of its organization."

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#1

Re: AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

11/10/2018 1:29 PM

The nose knows...

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#2

Re: AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

11/10/2018 10:53 PM

Does "Philyra" know anything about possible negatives regarding the uses of fragrances? I definitely do NOT want to sit near certain people, who seem to use large quantities of fragrance(s), especially in a small room, like an elevator.

Plant- and animal-derived fragrances can really smell wonderful, at least for short times (eg. coffee, vanilla, chocolate, bacon), but our sensitivity to them rapidly diminishes when continuously exposed.

But when we start creating complex artificial compounds, I suspect that there is a danger of creating substances that may smell good, but are not beneficial to our health! In fact, I'm not at all sure it is healthy (for example), to burn candles that contain added fragrances...

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#3
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Re: AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

11/12/2018 9:10 AM

Aggression Targeting the Reptilian Brain

Scents, especially the most effective ones, specifically address the reptilian brain. In my opinion, they are, and are often intended to be, profoundly aggressive. This includes tobacco smoke which triggers in me the flight response. If I am trapped with it, it triggers a fight response since it is an assault on the moist, pink folds of membranes in my nasal passages which tends to make them burn and gives me a debilitating headache. In a restaurant, I consider it legal assault since I suffer pain and perhaps financial/social loss if I am forced to abandon my meal. Smoke is biologically a warning to flee or be killed by fire. My body treats it that way and I am mystified by those who find it innocuous. I am very pleased that in many places now, it is illegal to smoke even though I am generally a libertarian wanting less government intervention as a first order choice. Scents are an exception because they constitute a conscious behavior of a buyer and seller which interferes with my life. I would rather go on a social outing with a flatulent lady or one with garlic halitosis than one who smokes or one who walks in a perfume cloud. The former maladies may be somewhat avoidable(with careful dietary choices) but the latter practices are clearly overt and optional choices.

Scents are up close and personal. They trigger a spectrum of inappropriate behaviors in the work place and in most other civilized settings (theaters, restaurants, retail sales,...) which have specific (usually alternative) purposes to the triggered ones. When there is a territorial aspect (my seat in a theater, my table at a restaurant,..) I believe the stinker(wearer or smoker) should be subject to expulsion and rebuke. If you are talking about a behavior in sync with the triggered psychological effect of the scent and in which one can, without loss of progress, retreat, I am slightly more tolerant. For example, if we are talking about a dance or mixer where one can easily walk away, I see less call for rebuke of a perfume wearer. If a wearer exits the dance and sits down at a table near me in a restaurant then the onus is on the perp to manage the logistics of avoiding rebuke.

Laundry soaps and thus their advertisements also are aggressive with scents and should be economically unsuccessful. Scents cannot possibly be "fresh" IMHO since freshness is the absence of scents and thus should succumb to truth in advertising tests. Scented oil evaporators in neighbors' houses and "health" establishments(MD and dental offices) send me, my good will, and my money elsewhere. Scented candles in gift shops will witness an abrupt about face as I walk and a clear, adequately loud explanation to my companions and passers by that I am leaving because the place literally stinks. Scented candles often trigger in me an involuntary sneezing fit before I can even consciously detect them. Yes, I may be more allergic to them than most but, in a mild way, I sympathize with the peanut allergy contingent because sneezing fits are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. I am allergic to penicillin(and climactic mold) but I neither know nor care if that relates to the candles.

I understand the financial incentives of raising the price of a commodity soap by adding scents but I wonder if those selling the soap understand how it drives me away. I suppose some do since many soap sellers now offer scent free versions which I hold my breath to obtain from the laundry soap aisle with all of their olfactory chemical weapons concentrated in one path. Some laundry soap scents also trigger sneezing fits if I do not sufficiently escape the aisle vicinity before having to breath again.

So, all of you who worry about the "freshness" fading from your laundry, please go to some aromatherapy spa to experience stimulation of your burned out olfactory organ to recall what smells are like rather than splashing on powerful, synthetically brewed AI smells and inflicting them on me. GA to dkwarner even though his post is overly optimistic, tolerant, and diplomatic wrt the use of local, personal, elective pollutants.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

11/12/2018 9:29 AM

In re scented candles, see this CR4 thread for an interesting discussion.

While researching a blog post on the relationship between scent and productivity I learned a bit about the surprisingly competitive world of commercial scent development -- searching for "the molecule" that will launch the next Chanel No. 5. I'm very interested to follow this AI-as-scent-developer story to see how the perfune industry responds.

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#5
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Re: AI-Derived Perfume on Its Way

11/13/2018 4:36 PM

The processors of AI will probably believe that “the molecule” is O3.

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