AI creates custom perfume with customer images

Earlier this year, I moved to Sweden. Since Zuckerberg is a no-brainer, one of the first ads that appeared on my Instagram matched exactly some of my favorite topics: artificial intelligence, innovation and fashion. That’s how I discovered No Ordinary Scent or NOS, a Swedish perfumery founded in 2019 and whose proposal is to use artificial intelligence to create personalized fragrances for each client, based on image analysis.

I spoke with the brand’s founder, Sandra Kinnmark, who said that the idea of ​​founding NOS came after realizing how difficult it was to find companies that made custom fragrances, especially online.

“Smells are very personal to us, so we wanted to create an online experience where you could create personal fragrances based on emotions, feelings and visions,” she explains.

Both Sandra and the other NOS founder, Amelie Saltin Thor, had previously worked on startups in Sweden and internationally. This experience helped when it came time to bet on the use of AI to analyze images that would create these personalized fragrances.

Although the technical term raises complexity, the perfume ordering process is quite simple.

You can name your perfume yourself and choose up to three images that will set the “tone” of the fragrance. The recommendation is to choose more than one photo so that the perfume has a more complex scent, but it is up to the customer to choose.

Technically, you can choose any three images, but it is encouraged to send images that bring back memories, thus adding another layer of meaning to the personalized fragrance.

In my case, I decided to name my fragrance “Sehnsucht”, nostalgia in German and the name of a song I like by the band Einstürzende Neubauten. I posted photos of people I miss, on occasions that seemed banal, but are now sorely missed.

With this, a preliminary analysis is done on the spot and you can get an idea of ​​what the starting notes (or head), heart notes (or body) and base notes (or base) will look like.

No Ordinary Scent - Swedish perfumery - IA that creates personalized perfume - Press Release - Press Release

Each perfume created by the Swedish perfumery AI has between ten to twenty ingredients

Image: Disclosure

Each perfume has between ten to twenty ingredients. In the case of the base, which carries the deepest and most persistent notes, fragrances such as wood, earth, vanilla and coffee were chosen. In the case of chords, in which there is a combination of starting and heart notes, floral and fruity fragrances are available, or else spices and aldehydes.

To associate these elements with the images, the NOS algorithm analyzes the images sent by customers based on their colors, tones, lightness, the existence of elements of nature, people, animals and others.

In my case, it was interesting to see how the images I sent resulted in an amber base perfume, tonka grain and roasted almonds; heart composed of peach, salted logs and metallic musk; and pink pepper head.

I felt that the fragrance was a little sweeter than I was used to (I prefer fresh perfumes), but still the woody base gave a balance that made me think of the word “bittersweet” — a term that seems to me very well married with nostalgia.

Sandra told me that the team never has access to the images, which are stored on an encrypted platform. With this, the algorithm uses aggregated data obtained from the images to improve its analysis and present more options to the user. That is, the more material the algorithm has access to, the more improved it will be.

But despite this analysis leading to a specific result, Sandra comments that AI is always learning from user feedback. “We started by associating the ‘lightness’ of the images with fresh smells, but the algorithm is now much more specific,” she says.

Sandra believes that it is precisely in this constant learning that the beauty of technology lies. “It’s all done in co-creation with the people who are actually using the perfumes rather than being the product of a decision made by marketing strategists in large corporations”.

Sandra Kinnmark and Amelie Saltin Thor - Disclosure - Disclosure

Sandra Kinnmark and Amelie Saltin Thor, founders of Swedish perfumery No Ordinary Scent

Image: Disclosure

In the meantime, AI ends up doing an analysis that was once reserved for semioticians. Both in communication and in art, there are researchers who precisely analyze images based on their composition, colors, elements, technique and other requirements that allow an interpretation of that work.

Although there are certain consensuses (for example, that the color black has a more reserved or even somber meaning), it is a convention that can change very easily with time and culture – just as pink was once a color associated with girls.

With that in mind, NOS creates fragrances that are agender. While some brands continue to produce perfumes for men and women, more and more in the fashion industry there is a demand for creations that are neutral or that are able to subvert gender associations. However, the algorithm seeks to categorize what colors, elements and shapes can mean and how they can be translated into smell.

This synesthetic approach is seen, for example, in the research of neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita, who created “sensory substitution” devices to help people with a disability achieve affected perception through other senses. This is also the perspective of the implant by the artist Neil Harbisson who, despite not seeing colors, is able to perceive them through sounds.

While the conversion performed by the Harbisson implant takes place at the frequency level of light and sound, the NOS algorithm is more subjective. However, it makes accessible to the public a common strategy in the marketing and consumer goods industry, that is, to create fragrances and tastes that evoke memories and, therefore, sell.

It’s the idea of ​​the characteristic smell of McDonald’s and how it is produced in order to standardize all franchises in the world, or how certain stores have a flavoring with a specific essence.

With the customization of fragrances offered by NOS (which also works with brands looking for this type of product), anyone can create their own scent and “trigger” of affective memory.

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