Artificial Intelligence And Perfume: Creating New Ways to Smell Good

Perfume making is an ancient art. With the help of artificial intelligence, it is becoming another industry that is changing the way its done. Some perfumers are using AI tools to create scents that can influence people’s emotions, while others are using AI to personalise fragrances for customers. Here are some examples of how AI is changing the world of perfume.

Neuroscents: Smells that Influence the Brain

Some perfumers are interested in developing scents that can make people feel good, like peace, elation, or sleepiness. These scents, known as neuroscents, are based on biometric tests that demonstrate how various odors affect the brain.

Hugo Ferreira, a researcher at Lisbon’s Institute of Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering, is mapping brain activity and responses to fragrances using AI technology.

He is building a database of neuroscents that can be used to design fragrances that manipulate emotions. He says: “It’s hard to imagine a smell even though [it] can provoke a torrent of emotions and memories.”

Ferreira explains that this is because the sense of smell is connected to different brain areas that control memory, thirst, stress and other functions. He says: “Olfaction is the most diverse sense with many different receptors. Among other things these various connections may explain how we can ‘smell fear’, or the smell of victory.”

The Beauty Industry

Many beauty brands are investing in neuroscent research and technology, hoping to create fragrances that make consumers feel good. For example, L’Oréal has partnered with neurotechnology company Emotiv to create a scent choice “experience”. Customers at some Yves Saint Laurent stores can use a headset to measure their brain activity and find the perfume that suits them best. According to L’Oréal, 95% of customers who used the headset found the right perfume.

Another brand, Puig, says it took 45 million brain readings from men aged 18-35 to fine-tune the cologne Phantom by Paco Rabanne, adding lavender and lemon to the formula as a result of its research. Givenchy Irresistible eau de parfum also includes a rose extract dubbed “anti-morose”, chosen after biometric research.


Personalised Scents That Suit You

While mass-market scents have to appeal to a broad audience, some perfumers are creating ultra-personal formulas using AI. These scents are tailored to the preferences and personality of each customer, making them unique and special.

One example is EveryHuman, an algorithmic perfumery based in the Netherlands. EveryHuman makes customised scents in minutes using a questionnaire and algorithms. The company’s co-founder Anahita Mekanik says: “My interest in algorithmic perfumery is the access it provides to people to engage with scent directly.”

Mekanik, who has worked in scent development and marketing for 20 years, says that for every scent that was launched, thousands of iterations would be made and discarded. She says: “Evaluating all those ‘imperfect’ trials that never made it to consumers – some of which they would’ve loved – was the core of the development process.”

EveryHuman has recently expanded into room fragrance and now visitors to Moooi furniture store in London can watch their machine create scents on the spot.

A Controversial Combination Between Tech and Perfume

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the use of AI in perfume making. Some critics say that AI takes away the creativity and artistry of perfumers, who have honed their skills for years. They also question whether AI can really capture the complexity and subtlety of human emotions and smells.

Katie Puckrik, a broadcaster and perfume writer, says she’d like to “design her own perfume as much as crush the grapes for her own wine”. She says: “Leave the magic to the artists. Why do we need a computer to tell us what our nose already knows?”

Whether you actually agree with Puckrik or not, there is no denying that AI is shaking up the perfume industry in edgy and unexpected ways. Maybe one day we’ll have the ability to click a button and instantly find your ideal fragrance.