How Can Wearable Tech Help You Find (and Keep) a Mate?

"Hug shirt" from Cute CircuitWearable tech is all the rage, whether it’s a bracelet that tells you how many steps you’ve taken  or one that tracks your quality of sleep, to a ring that glows when that someone special is calling, to concussion caps that let the coach know when a player should be pulled off the field.

But can wearable tech help your love life?  There aren’t any wearable tech devices out there right now specifically targeted towards dating, but there is a lot of potential to piggyback onto devices that are already out there.  I’ve broken down my findings into three categories:  Finding a Match, First Date, and Relationships.

Finding a Match

Here are two ideas from interns at the design studio LUNAR (only concepts for now):

  • Marie Noury designed a pendant called Wizz that “gathers information from all your social networks, and uses that to figure out who you might like. It uses this information to send you an alert when there is someone with the same interests in the area around you.”
  • Toby Stopper designed a charm bracelet that “lets you broadcast your interests to the world around you. Various glowing charms can be combined to reflect different personalities and passions, which lets people know instantly whether or not there could be a connection.”

Using Google Glass comes to mind, of course–Coffee Meets Bagel had an April Fool’s joke saying they’d partnered with Glass to help find the perfect match:  “High compatibility detected: Commence stalking.”

Besides stalking potential mates while you’re out and about, wearable tech could also be used to automatically add information to people’s online profiles.  For example, if users wear a sleep tracker, it can automatically label whether someone is a night owl, which may be important to you.  If someone is ok with sharing a summary of their activity data, you could see whether their claim of “physically active” holds true.

Emotion detection apps are starting to emerge, as well.  An online profile could show someone’s emotional pattern when they’ve watched a movie, and you could see if you both laugh and cry at the same things.  OkCupid says one of the most reliable questions you can ask your date to see if you’re compatible is “Do you like horror movies?” (If you both answer yes, or both answer no, you’re more likely to be a good match.)

First Date

In Professor Eli Finkel’s TED talk (“Can Technology Bring Us True Love?”), he talks about research showing that when two people who meet have chemistry, their heart rates sync up.  If you wear a heart rate monitor during your first date (like this one from Sensilk), you could get a report card showing how compatible you and your date are in terms of your unconscious signals.  The report card could use emotion as well–if it detects boredom or disgust, you’re probably not a good match.

Imagine a bracelet, like Jawbone’s Up, vibrating when certain events occur; for example, if someone you chose as a match on eHarmony said “yes” back, a little vibrate might make you feel extra good about it.  (The vibrate when you reach your goal for the date on FitBit is apparently a bit of a thrill for some.)

Kapture has a bracelet that lets you record and share the last 60 seconds of conversation–you can save and replay that special moment during your first date when you first felt that spark.

Relationships

Other devices might come into play once you’ve had at least one date with someone, or if you’re actually in a relationship.  Here’s something from Cute Circuit called a “hug shirt”:  it lets you send a hug to someone anywhere in the world, which is then simulated by the shirt they’re wearing.  It’s kind of a nice idea, but I think I’d feel creeped out if I was just sitting in a meeting or something and suddenly my shirt started hugging me.

You could imagine something even more sophisticated, which can respond in different ways depending on what was sent–a hug from a faraway friend vs. a more intense one from a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Another idea for long-distance relationships is an app that tracks and sends photos of your partner throughout the day; perhaps your partner is traveling abroad and this would be an automatic way to see glimpses into their day and travels, and spark conversations when you do chat.  Or you could both be going for a run in your respective cities, and compete to see who can get their heart rate in the zone the longest.  Winner buys dinner next time you’re in town.

Of course I have to mention Funderwear: “Basically Durex took the same technology used to make a cell phone vibrate—actuators—and wired them into the underwear, which can then be remotely controlled by a smartphone. The complete his and hers Funderwear set includes a bra, panties, and a pair of boxer briefs, all of which vibrate.”

Back to emotion tracking:  maybe your boyfriend just had a bad day at work.  The emotion tracker could let you know it’s a good time to send him a message that you’re thinking of him–or one of those hug shirt hugs!

Most of these ideas are for long-distance relationships, but there are plenty of games for in-person dates as well.  How about seeing how fast it takes to boost the other person’s heart rate, for example?  Or how fast you can calm their heart rate, for that matter.

There are negative sides, of course, like this creepy video that shows a future in which a man is playing a dating app game in the middle of a first date (for example it lets him know when his date’s interest in the conversation is flagging).  And allowing users to have total control over what information they’re sharing, and with whom, is essential.

Wearable tech is still in its infancy.  But as it grows, no doubt its uses–even in love–will grow too.

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What are Tinder, OkCupid and eHarmony users Tweeting About?

I recently did some analysis to see which dating apps/sites people were Tweeting about the most.  Tinder won by a landslide, followed by OkCupid and Badoo.

Now I wanted to see what these Tweets were about.  Using the open-source data analytics tool KNIME, I fed in the Tweets, did some data cleanup, and created word clouds to get a picture of the most common topics.

Let’s start with Tinder:

Tinder Word ClodSome of the words had me scratching my head initially.. castle?  Bots?  But a little digging led to this retweeted story:  “Tinder Hacked By Bots Promoting Castle Clash Game Downloads“.

Other words, like dating, singles, sexy, hot, and matches, all fit in with Tinder’s reputation.

I took a look at the data on swiping right (saying ‘yes’ to a match) and swiping left (saying ‘no’) and people were Tweeting about swiping right almost twice as much as swiping left.

Next up, OkCupid:

OkCupid Word CloudAs I mentioned in my previous post, about 60% of the OkCupid posts had to do with OkCupid’s boycotting of Firefox because Mozilla’s president had donated to the anti-gay marriage Prop 8.   That definitely skews the data!  Another big story (for the words nightmare, steals, phone) had this headline:  “Nightmare OkCupid Date Steals Girl’s Phone and Impersonates Her Online.”  Interestingly, marriage made it into the word cloud (unlike in Tinder and eHarmony) but that seems also to be related to the Mozilla boycott!

Next up in number of Tweets was Badoo–but most of the data was in Spanish.

I decided to focus on the next one instead, eHarmony:

eHarmony Word Cloud

Apparently eHarmony had a commercial out that made a lot of people uncomfortable.   As for “job,” it included various job postings at eHarmony (I did get rid of all the Tweets by the dating app’s Twitter account, but other people posted the same information).

995pm refers to a deal eHarmony was running at the time:  $9.95 per month.

Other interesting words:  exclusive, “findlove”, senior, and matchmaker.

What About Love?

“Love” was the 42nd most common word in Tinder’s Tweets, 108th for OkCupid (people were too busy Tweeting about the boycott!) and the 11th most common at eHarmony.  I can’t say I’m surprised that people Tweeting about eHarmony are Tweeting the most about love!

Now What?

The next thing I’d like to do with this data is sentiment analysis–that is, are people saying more negative or positive things about each of these sites?  I’d also like to get some more data for OkCupid since the Mozilla boycott has passed.


 

Technical Notes

You may have noticed that each word cloud contains the name of the dating site/app itself.  I did remove the majority of those words (each Tweet has one so it’s not particularly relevant!) but a few stayed in because of the way the data was organized.  I used KNIME’s Parts of Speech tagger, and interestingly it sometimes tagged the dating apps as a noun, and sometimes as a verb (depending on where in the sentence it appears).  If I were to do this again, I’d remove those instances as well.

My Review of iDate Mobile Dating Industry Conference

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Blinged-out Conference Lanyard: “Let There Be Money”

Last week, I attended the iDate Mobile Dating Industry Conference in Beverly Hills.  The conference is held three times a year (in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, and an international venue) and has been around for 11 years.

I have never attended before and was not really sure what to expect.  I hoped to learn more about the landscape of online dating as it stands today, see some interesting presentations, and make a few connections.

While some of that did happen, I also saw some extremely poor presentations, was witness to plenty of misogyny,  and was disappointed by the lack of content about actually HELPING people meet their romantic partner (as opposed to just driving traffic to an online dating site or app to make money).  There are 3000+ dating sites out there!

I got a kick out of the hotel–the SLS–it was very swanky LA, full of quirky art (like people painted on the elevator walls).

There were two talks that had titles that indicated there would be a discussion of algorithms and compatibility measurement, but both fell quite short.  There was a lot of discussion of sleazy dating sites, “d*ck pics,” and comments like “thanks for giving us a tax-free excuse to hang out with hot 18 year olds”.  I went to a talk called “Using High-End Offline Events to Improve Membership,” but after the speaker started showing a video from their Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion full of half-naked women, I left.

I’ve been to a lot of tech conferences in my life, and while there is still plenty of sexism to go around there, it’s nothing like the iDate atmosphere.  Ad posters of half-naked women were in the networking area.   And I am so tired of men referring to women as “females”.

There was a party on the first night of the conference up in the Hollywood Hills at Tai Lopez’s house.  He’s an entrepreneur who was once on the Millionaire Matchmaker.  That was…interesting.

What WAS good about the conference?  Here’s a summary of presentations I did get something out of:

  • The best by far was a pre-conference session I attended by Steve Dean, CEO of Dateworking, called Mobile Dating App Innovation.  Steve is in his mid-20s and has tons of dating experience, which he applies to consulting for dating companies.   He is someone who obviously spends a lot of time thinking about dating, and his presentation was full of interesting information and real data.
  • The keynote on the first main day of the conference was by Syuzi Pakhchyan of Fashioning Technology, called “Connected Bodies:  Shaping the Future of Wearable Tech”.   It was a fascinating overview of the current space in wearable tech.  There was not a big tie-in with online dating, but she did give some good food for thought, such as using open environments like Jawbone’s UP Band to enhance dating communication (perhaps a vibrate on your wrist when someone you like messages you?)
  • Mark Brooks, CEO of Online Personals Watch and Courtland Brooks, gave an overview of the dating industry over the last year, including some interview clips with Sam Yagan (CEO of Match), Markus Frind (CEO of Plenty of Fish), and Aaron Schildkrout (CEO of HowAboutWe).   He also brought up the fact that most matchmaking conferences are attended primarily by women, but the iDate conference is primarily men.   What’s up with that?
  • There was a session called “CEO Therapy” in which a CEO stands up for a 5-minute presentation, and then gets feedback from the audience on their business model, etc.  Eve Peters gave a brief but terrific talk about her startup, Whim, which gets you out on a date that same night.  She had some great data on the time one invests on various dating sites before you go on an actual date. (It can take weeks on some sites.)   She also had one of my favorite quotes from the conference, “This is not an entertainment app like Tinder.”
  • Alex Kilpatrick  from Beehive ID gave some interesting information about potential for using social graphs for dating.
  • Mark Brooks interviewed Michael Jones, CEO of Science, Inc.  Michael knows a lot about the industry and gave some good insights.  Also, can I just say there is a lot more swearing at iDate presentations than at tech conferences?
  • Christian Jensen, Chief Evangelist at Sinch, talked about adding voice to dating apps, and why aren’t more people doing it?
  • I enjoyed hearing from Jill James, COO of Three Day Rule, a matchmaking service recently bought by Match.com.  You submit photos of your exes and they use facial recognition software to figure out your facial “type”.
  • There was some talk about “couples’ apps” being the wave of the future; once you’ve got someone matched, how can you retain them as a customer and help them in their relationship?

The last session of the conference was a panel with 10 people (sadly it only included one woman, Jill James) that had the audience asking questions about the industry.   It had a few interesting insights.

In summary:  I’m glad I went, I did learn some useful things and meet some interesting people, but I was also disappointed by a lot of the content and angry with the blatant misogyny.  I did  have fun staying at the conference hotel, where I ate the best grilled-cheese sandwich of my life.   Check out my Flickr photos of the conference.