There’s not a day that goes by where AI isn’t making headlines; whether it’s coming for my job, my social media feed or humanity, I’ve become comfortably numb to robots taking over. However, when I heard that this futuristic tech was being used for good – in the form of making our nose’s dream scents a reality – I decided it was time to embrace the code and discover whether my signature scent was really in the palm of a robotic hand.
While I spent most of my teens loyal to one fragrance, my twenties were all about embracing the non-monogamous. As such, I’d accidentally become a perfume hoarder. My bookshelves were stacked with an array of apothecary bottles that would rival your high-street perfume hall – my nose just couldn’t help itself. The idea of a ‘signature scent’ had long gone out the window, and instead, I had adopted the concept of a different fragrance for every day of the week or to reflect whatever mood I was in.
While I loved many of my perfumes, I couldn’t find all the qualities I wanted in just one bottle; vetiver to add sexiness, rose to be flirty or tobacco to add warmth – there was no one cocktail to satisfy my senses. Enter: EveryHuman Algorithmic Perfumery, located in The Fragrance Shop’s Oxford Street store. It’s the world’s first public AI scent design platform that aims to decipher exactly what it takes to make our individual signature scent. Based on working with scent experts, psychologists and researchers, EveryHuman created a questionnaire, which allows the AI-guided machine to collect data and determine which combination of “scent building blocks” you are to create a customisable scent profile.
It’s not the first time the worlds of AI and perfume have collided. Paco Rabanne’s Phantom fragrance is not only the literal shape of a robot, but it’s also the juice inside it that’s futuristically inclined, with its combination of AI and neuroscience to create an “augmented creativity” process that works with scent receptors to elicit emotions.
Black Mirror vibes aside, the reason fragrance is so emotive to us all is because it has strong links to our emotions and memories. As such, this was essentially claiming that a code could trigger this visceral human response and leave us smelling good in the process, which almost seemed like a manipulative plot of a Sci-Fi movie to take charge of the human race (just call me Steven Spielberg). I was sceptical.
My EveryHuman Algorithmic Perfumery experience
Upon entering The Fragrance Shop, it was hard not to spot the machine almost immediately. It looked like something out of a mad (but chic) scientist’s lab, with multiple vials of coloured liquids hovering above a tiny conveyor belt. It was so eye-catching, that I spotted people walking in from the street just to ask what it was.
First off, I was asked to take a quiz to allow the machine to get inside my head (and nose) to understand what would make me tick. It was lengthy and took me a good 15 minutes to complete. I expected to be asked about what notes I liked or whether I veered towards “fresh” or “sexy”, but instead, I got asked questions about whether I was introverted or extroverted, what location I felt most at home in (in a city or by a beach) and what colour I thought I was – a lot of scent for thought, for sure.
Interestingly, the last question was whether I answered all the previous queries in the third person or as myself, which had me questioning whether this was a physiological evaluation in disguise. Paranoia aside, I was then asked to put my code into the time-machine-looking contraption and then I watched the magic happen.
For the price of £45 (the cost of the experience), the robot will produce three 5ml fragrances it thinks you’ll like. Scent designer and co-founder of EveryHuman, Anahita Mekanik, told me that these three scents will vary quite a lot, as the machine tries to determine your preferences and learn from your choices.
While there were the standard notes – like rose, sandalwood and musk – what interested me the most were the concept notes, such as ‘metals’ and ‘sheer’, which were about what we think something smells like, but are totally made up.
My first fragrance was a heady concoction of oud, resin and bergamot, which smelt exactly like a pricier perfume I had at home. However, as soon as the second option was spritzed into the air, my nose zeroed in on it. It was a cocktail of ‘blond woods’, sandalwood and patchouli; it was somehow nostalgic but unlike anything I’d ever smelt before. Number three was on the total opposite end of the scale and was a fresher mix of grapefruit, toka and ‘powdery’ – I liked it but it wasn’t very ‘me’.
Scent two was the clear winner, it was like catnip to me – I couldn’t stop sniffing the tester. Mekanik then threw a spanner in the works and asked what I’d do if I could change it. I hummed and hawed over whether to touch it or not, but in the spirit of journalism, I decided to tweak it slightly. I added rose and amber into the mix and dialled down the sandalwood. When it comes to tweaking, each note is made up of percentages (with 100% being the finished scent), you can either customise the scent yourself or ask the machine to make it to an even 100 for you.
The final result was literally, me in a bottle. I haven’t stopped wearing it since it was created. I thought it would be a bit more hit-and-miss but this robot really knows its stuff.
My final thoughts
In a world where we’re constantly trying to gatekeep our fragrances, there’s no denying this AI-generated scent is the future of personalisation. While I don’t think I’ll be chucking out my entire fragrance collection just yet, my experience was spot-on. I also appreciate that you do have the option to access your account at a later date and continue to tweak your scent and have it delivered straight to your door – a great option if you want something a bit heavier in the winter months and a bit lighter for summer.
If this seems like too much of a mammoth task, the brand also has an offering of scents they’ve created themselves, which you can order as they are or tweak your way to perfection if you want a base to start from.
It’s also the season of gifting, and I think the idea of taking a quiz about your loved one is a thoughtful (or perhaps a chaotic) way to avoid the issue of trying to determine what perfume they’d like in their stocking. After all, if it fails, you can just blame technology.
The sophistication of the notes on offer and the concept behind them is innovative in itself, while still keeping prices pretty affordable (with 30ml for £60, 50ml for £80 and 100ml for £110). In a world where 50ml can often cost you upwards of £250, this tech is a bargain if you ask me. There’s also something about having a hand in the creation of the scent itself that makes it feel all the more personal and unique.
It’s safe to say: robots, you won this round.
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