Dating and Technology
I was reading the other day about usage of a new mobile dating application Tinder at the Olympics (yes, I know this is not new, but it was unknown to me because, for some odd reason, my wife gets mad if I have dating apps on my smartphone). For those of you who are unfamiliar with Tinder, the way it works is that you scan a bunch of profiles and decide if you like them or want to pass on them. The app matches you with local people who saw your profile and liked you, and then you can initiate a chat session.
These matching sites and apps have been around a while, and there are now over 250 dating apps in the Android store. These include California Dating, Christian Dating, Video Dating, Military Dating, Country Singles Dating, Cougar Dating, and even the #1 Millionaire Dating site (watch out Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger, apps are your big competition).
Apps and the Dating Game
A Harvard Undergraduate named Jeff Tarr created the first dating application way back in 1965. He had 90 thousand applications and loaded them in an IBM 1401. He made decent money ($270k), but by current standards he should have become a billionaire for the idea and effort.
I cannot tell you how much I could have used these apps in high school (I had to ask several girls to prom to get one to say yes, but that is probably a whole other post). I guess you feel some level of rejection if you like 100 people and nobody likes you back, but this still seems much easier on the ego.
Can Technology Help Make Better Matches?
A lot of these apps do not incorporate much technology, but there are a few exceptions. Tinder has a nice UI and uses location. OKCupid recommends matches based on questions to answers. Zoosk and eHarmony use proprietary algorithms. Then a new app, Hinge, mines your social network and uses that to create recommendations. In this age of technology, it seems these apps could go a lot farther and make the user experience even better. Here are some new technologies that could be considered:
- Visual API: This would be most useful for apps where users are primarily interested in appearance. I wrote about our AT&T alpha API in a previous post—we used this in a demo at our summit to match people’s photos with celebrities. Here, you have the user list celebrities they find most attractive, or perhaps do a conjoint analysis and have them stack rank a bunch of people in order of attractiveness. You come up with an optimum set of features they like and then recommend matches based on how well they line up to the physical characteristics.
- Big Data: There is a lot of hype on this now. Although some sites ask for information (as mentioned above Hinge mines social data), this just seems like the tip of the iceberg. There was an article in MIT Technology Review that stated that 99.5% of newly created digital data is never used. Imagine if users shared much more information (such as favorite apps, food, eBooks, and how they spend their time, etc.), and how that data might be used to create much better matches. Particularly if you took this farther, perhaps analyzing couples who had been married for 40 years, collecting detailed information and determining where similarities help versus where differences help, it might yield better matchmaking results.
- User Analysis: For any developers working in the consumer space, like websites, you are probably aware of the sophisticated analytic tools that are available to determine what people are viewing and are consistently improving it. Others are probably familiar with the way music apps work to recommend usage based on feedback. Can you imagine incorporating feedback through some process when it comes to dating? Perhaps ranking the dates afterwards and providing details on what the user did and didn’t like could be used to refine recommendations over time.
None of these ideas are particularly romantic. If technology is going to be used to help people find partners, it may as well help push technology more. How would you use technology to help people find the perfect match? Tell us about in the comments below.
Photo credit: Don Hankins via Flickr.
Quote on photo: The Matrix