The ancient art of fragrance is being brought into the future.
IBM and flavor and fragrances producer Symrise have paired up to create an artificially intelligent computer that can act as a modern perfumer. Dubbed “Philyra,” the AI can create new scents for home products, fine fragrance and personal care products, like lotion and face wash, by the analyzing over 1.9 million digitally archived formulas Symrise has created for clients, as well as thousands of raw ingredients across different markets. Depending on the client guidelines given, it then analyzes and creates to understand what scents are suitable or not While something as simple as a chatbot can be considered artificial intelligence, Philyra has the advanced capacity to learn from formulas.
The results of this initial effort have led to the design of two new perfumes for the Brazilian market scheduled to launch in mid-2019 for global beauty company O Boticário. For them, Phylra developed fragrances aimed for Brazilian millennials. It developed a unique perfume personality, according to Goodwin and Apel, by replacing one citrus note for another or by adding scents like rosemary or sage.
IBM and Symrise began their collaboration on Philyra approximately two years ago. While still in its early stages of creation, the AI has the capacity to change the fragrance industry by absorbing millions of data points relating to taste preferences, demographics, consumer personality, and available ingredients or alternatives, and creating fragrances that are both marketable and customized to a specific market set within a matter of minutes.
“AI is the next stage of great innovation in perfumery,” said David Apel, vp and master perfumer for Symrise. “In a matter of seconds, [Philyra] can create thousands of formulas. The possibilities are endless.”
Because Philyra is a machine learning AI, this means that it learned how to understand the nuances of perfumery while also learning how to create new fragrances that are not only different in chemical composition, but also in overall scent and perception. Becoming a professional perfumer can require upward of 10 years in training, and a single perfume can take anywhere from nine months to five years to launch, according to Apel. Philyra developed its two fragrances for O Boticário within five months.
“When you click a button to generate a fragrance, it can take a minute to generate fragrances. It could then take a day and a half to create the fragrance before it’s presented to the client,” said Richard Goodwin, a researcher at IBM.
Symrise’s longer-term goal is to introduce this AI technology to its around 75 master perfumers around the globe. Additionally, Symrise operates two training schools with three-year-long curriculums and plans to place Philyra in the classroom starting in 2019 to train the next generation of perfumers to not only learn the artisanal aspects of perfumery, but also get exposure to modern technology and AI.
“It’s much more about exploring new frontiers and possibilities than cost and time,” said Achim Daub, global president of scent & care for Symrise. “If we can do that, sure, our shareholders will be happy, but it’s more about pushing the frontiers of innovation.”