Co-Founder at Ambiance Matchmaking, an exclusive matchmaking service for conscious leaders, creatives, and entrepreneurs.
The art and science of matchmaking is a billion-dollar industry. Yet, many pitfalls exist within the current online dating domain such as safety, security and ineffective matching methods. These issues aren’t as prevalent with professional matchmakers, as many conduct in-depth screening, background checks and personal interviews with their clients. However, not every singleton can afford to pay between $15,000 and $150,000 for a high-end matchmaking service. This exposes a huge opening in the industry for dating apps and professional matchmakers to merge, and startups are racing to fill this gap with a utopian viewpoint of becoming a global cupid for billions of people. How realistic is this, and what kind of technology or science can help achieve this idealistic goal?
The biggest issue I’ve been seeing in the online dating industry today is a lack of trust and transparency. The traditional identity systems of dating apps are extremely flawed. As companies are more concerned with accessibility and ease of use, anyone with an email or phone number can join in a matter of minutes. As a result, fake profiles and scammers are ubiquitous. Due to the advent of blockchain technology, we have the tools to build new identity management systems. Companies such as Hicky and Viola have both implemented blockchain to increase transparency by requiring users to validate their identity via face and voice recognition, which is then fully encrypted and stored into the blockchain.
Can artificial intelligence (AI) end the era of scrolling, searching and swiping? It’s certainly possible due to AI’s ability to “know” its users. In the past decade, dating apps have used basic matching methods such as geolocation and “swiping right.” AI can help gather in-app user behavior data for machine learning algorithms to curate more relevant matches based on its users’ core values, beliefs and personality traits. Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Tinder and Badoo all now use AI and machine learning in their apps to find relevant matches for users.
Taking it one step further, AI could also act as a digital matchmaker, arranging meetings in real life and providing feedback and coaching. An example of this is the voice-operated dating app AIMM (The Artificially Intelligent Matchmaker) which uses AI to mirror a human matchmaking service. Akin to the Black Mirror episode “Hang The DJ,” AIMM speaks to you for a week to determine your personality then introduces you to matches via photo tours and audio snippets, all while coaching and guiding you through the process. There’s no tapping, swiping or filling out profiles. AI is still very much in its infancy with the potential for dramatic shifts to occur in the coming decade.
Augmented reality (AR) can be described as a visual or audio overlay of digital life on real life, distinct from the purely digital landscape of virtual reality (VR). Whereas VR eclipses the user’s entire world to present an entirely new reality, AR will most likely be more socially acceptable because of its less dramatic shift from the real world. We’re already seeing AR being used in the dating industry by companies such as Flirtar, the world’s first AR dating app. Flirtar’s vision is allowing people to connect in real life almost instantly by literally putting matches right in front of them using geolocation.
Geneticists are exploring ways to use DNA as a way to find your life partner (think the Netflix show The One). DNA Romance is a dating app that matches partners based on the information hidden in their DNA to forecast romantic chemistry. Based on the “sweaty T-shirt experiment” conducted by Claus Wedekind in 1995, Dr. Tim Sexton built the app on the basis that partners with opposite immune system genes (MHC genes) have much higher romantic chemistry than those with similar genes. According to Sexton, we’re attracted to people with different immune systems because it ensures that some of us are resistant to new pathogens, securing the ability to survive as a human population. People can order DNA collection kits or upload DNA files to find matches.
The Future Matchmaking Market
The matchmaking industry is a sticky web, pulling in developers, geneticists and visionaries with an eye for an emerging market. Yet, many questions remain. Can dating apps use tools such as machine learning and AI to build digital matchmakers that are just as good at matchmaking as human matchmakers? Can dating apps utilize blockchain and AI that screen and vet their users just as well as matchmaking companies performing background checks and interviews? And if so, would society be willing to forgo the human touch for a bot? Will AR really empower singles to connect in real life or will privacy concerns conquer? Will science prove a completely new way of matchmaking based on our DNA? And if so, will people be willing to provide this personal information in order to find a compatible partner?
The jury is still out, but there’s one thing that’s certain. Our dating environment will change dramatically in the coming decade, full of tremendous opportunities for emerging markets and new players in the industry. Matchmaking and online dating companies alike should adapt to these unfolding trends by asking themselves if it makes sense to implement any of these new technologies and what that would look like. Trust, safety and security should be at the forefront of any company’s business plan, followed by an R&D strategy for continuing to improve and innovate in its matchmaking methods.