The startup Osmo, an offshoot of Google Research based in Cambridge, in the United States, has developed a system that promises to discover new smells using artificial intelligence (AI). According to the researchers, the idea is to create the “next generation” of scents for perfumes, shampoos, candles and other everyday products.
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This system has software that can predict the smell of some molecules based only on their original structure. In the short term, the company hopes to design biodegradable and allergen-free molecules, then give computers the ability to scan smells.
“Fragrance companies have figured out how to replicate some natural scents, but it’s still largely a manual process and many scents don’t have synthetic substitutes. We need to find replacements or else we will have to continue harvesting these plants and animals from our ecosystem,” Osmo CEO and co-founder Alex Wiltschko told Wired.
The olfactory system is very complex, making it difficult to categorize scents. To address this, the Osmo team worked on building what they call an “odor map” — a way of cataloging scents so that molecules with similar smells are grouped together.
Using an artificial intelligence system, the researchers fed machine learning software with an updated set of data, containing more than 5,000 molecules of different perfumes that already existed, until they reached a satisfactory result.
“Artificial intelligence analyzes molecules and classifies them. For example, if the perfume is fruity, buttery or woody, the program starts from this initial Reviews to be able to predict how a human being would describe that smell in a natural way”, explained Wiltschko.
After the computer is fed with the already known smells, the AI software analyzes 400 artificial molecules designed in the laboratory. The system is able to predict how these odors would be perceived by a human being, using only their molecular structure before the perfume is actually produced.
According to scientists, the global fragrance industry moves more than 30 billion dollars a year, using raw materials that are difficult to obtain in nature and, consequently, causing an environmental impact directly related to this type of activity.
“Our idea is to transform the perfume and aroma industry, creating strong, hypoallergenic and sustainable molecules. All of this without extracting plant or animal sources from nature, using only digital smells during the production process”, completed Wiltschko.