11 October 2021

The Verge: “Teaching AI to taste and smell could help the future of product design”

00:07:05 Ashley Carman: But successfully making these on demand personalized scents is just part one of Centronics loftier goal.

00:07:12 Frederik Duerinck: The ultimate goal that we have is we really want to give you something that allows you to feel in a certain way that you want. So for instance, if you would say hey, you know, I’ve had a bad day and I want to relax a little bit. Can you give me something that really physiologically helps you to relax? So that’s an extremely complex, because then you need to understand like, OK, what is your physiological response, but as well what do you perceive?

00:09:20 Frederik Duerinck: If you go further down the line, we’re working on a very small device that you can wear, and you can connect to your phone, and basically if your smartwatch detects like, hey, you’re stressed, it can give you a small puff, because you kind of optimize it in such a way that you are able to control your mood a little bit. So that’s the end goal.

Ashley Carman

I have not come across this application of AI before listening to this podcast, although it makes sense to pursue. After all, our smell and taste senses are triggered by chemical compounds, and computer algorithms could help uncover or design new molecules to activate novel sensations.

In this episode, Ashley explores how AI can be used for product design, but more specifically, for creating fragrances and flavors. Guests include founder of ScentTronix Frederik Duerinck, computer scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Saket Navalkha, and Michael Spranger from Sony AI

The concept of mood control via customized chemicals though, I feel it is a slippery slope. It instantly reminded me of the mood-altering drug soma in Brave New World, universally used to quell the slightest hint of ‘negative’ emotions, reppressing self-reflection. Americans already have problems with opioid addition; giving them more drugs to abuse does not seem like a very bright idea.

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