IFST Sensory Science Group: Using AI in Sensory and Consumer Science - A Discussion

The Sensory Science Group (SSG) held an insightful discussion workshop, drawing together the 2020 webinar series focused on “Data Science meets Sensory Science” incorporating artificial intelligence (AI). While not many of the 60 workshop participants were currently using AI, it was clear that everyone saw it as a necessity for the future and a skill to develop, and all were keen to learn more.

Currently, in sensory and consumer science, AI is mostly used to assist data collection and analysis, e.g. for data visualisation, correlation, transcription, statistical analysis, and panel monitoring.  But there is a desire to use it for more comprehensive purposes, such as combining different data sources, including sensory, consumer, product formulation and analytical data to ultimately understand how to optimise consumer focused product development.

Many strengths of AI were identified, with the greatest being improved efficiency allowing the scientist to focus on areas requiring their specific skills.  And in terms of opportunities, it may encourage non-sensory professionals to become interested in sensory, introduces new skillsets to the industry, and gives us the opportunity to take a leading role in the product development cycle.

Despite its many strengths, some weaknesses and threats were identified.  For example, there is an initial cost and time investment, and also worries about the implication for jobs in the future.  However, it is more efficient in the long run, meaning sensory scientists can focus on greater value-added activities, utilising our knowledge and ability to see the bigger picture.

The greatest barrier to using AI and other automatic data analysis tools appeared to be a lack of trust, the time taken upfront to format the data, and the need for a fool proof solution with an output you intuitively know is correct.

It was acknowledged that we need the time and training to develop new skills to fully embrace and implement AI, as it will be an important part of our roles going forward.

Full details from the break-out group discussions, including experiences with some of the AI apps and software used, can be downloaded on this link: Break-Out Group Discussions

It was a really interesting discussion forum and I know I was previously daunted by the idea of AI, but after the SSG webinars and the discussions in this webinar, I can really see its value and the benefits it will bring to me and my work, and I am really excited to embrace it.  Hope you are too.

Victoria Whelan, SSG Events and Communications Working Groups

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