Scent & Care

Symrise perfumer David Apel creating O Boticario perfume with AI apprentice
— The start of the digital age for the perfume industry
— An archive of formulas and historical data help with the creation of fragrances

Symrise, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fragrances and flavorings, is charting creative paths. In partnership with IBM Research, the company is currently developing a method of using artificial intelligence (AI) to create perfumes based on digital fragrance models. Philyra, as the project is called, uses AI developed by IBM Research for product design technology. Its first project involves the creation of two fragrances for the customer O Boticario. Both fragrances will be brought to market in 2019.

“The art and science of designing a winning perfume has been something we at Symrise have been doing for more than 200 years. Now our perfumers can work with 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 toward formulas that have never been seen before,” stated Achim Daub, President of Symrise Scent & Care.

Compared with other computer-aided models from IBM Research for other industry branches, creating fragrances requires highly detailed precision. Even if the system deviates only minimally from the specified amounts, it either makes or breaks a new perfume. Philyra uses a data-driven approach and accesses a gigantic data bank consisting of fragrance formulas, data about fragrance families – fruity, oriental or flowery – as well as historical data. The system uses artificial intelligence and a treasure trove of data to create, for example, a fragrance especially for Brazilian male millennials.

In the fragrance business in particular, the market demands new creations every season. AI identifies existing fragrances and suggests complementary additional components and formulas. Symrise perfumer David Apel from the New York Studio took these suggestions and then tweaked them minimally, to emphasize a certain fragrance note, and improve how long it lasts on the skin. This collaborative work has resulted in two fine fragrances that Symrise will present next year.

“This effort brings together human expertise with machine intelligence to create novel, fine fragrances. Philyra’s understanding of consumer preferences and knowledge of formulas and ingredients, led to new fragrance combinations, which allowed our perfumers to accelerate the creative design process and focus on perfecting the final products,” said Alexandre Bouza, Marketing Director, O Boticario. “Advances in AI are helping us introduce unique, new fragrances to our customers. We are very excited to be part of this collaboration with Symrise and IBM Research.”

“Perfumery is an ancient art. It moves slowly through history and can seem unchanged for centuries. But there are moments of historic significance that are undeniable. The last great explosion of innovation began in the late 19th century with the introduction of synthetic fragrance raw materials into the perfumer’s pallet. That revolution is still the driving force behind most of the great perfumes of today. Artificial Intelligence is quite simply the next frontier of perfumery innovation and discovery. Watching it unfold, and helping to direct it, is a privilege and the most significant milestone in my career“, stated Apel. Further information can be found here.

A video on YouTube features the story visually: