Forbes - How AI And The Blockchain Is Helping Put A Valentine's Spark Back Into Online Dating
According to a survey by online dating app "Coffee Meets Bagel," the perception of Valentine's Day appears to have changed dramatically. Singles are loud and proud, feeling empowered and less pressured to have a date for the hallmark occasion -- and this isn't the best news for dating apps.
As a result, some operators are trying to head off dating-app fatigue with tech solutions: from the creation of in-person authentic experiences such as concerts and cultural experiences, to leveraging blockchain and artificial intelligence for courtship advice. Others may even accept cryptocurrencies for payment to match-making platforms.
Dating through the experience economy
With men twice as active on relationship sites, according to numerous surveys, a slew of dating apps have emerged catering to women already, allowing ladies to call the shots. But active singles yearn for more than just algorithmic matches. A recent poll suggests nearly 80% of millennials feel that attending live events can help deepen their relationships. They make more genuine connections meeting people at parties, concerts, festivals, or races and themed sporting events.
Despite Coffee Meets Bagel's quality-over-quantity approach, the app launched by three Korean sisters six years ago on this fateful day, has decided to incorporate the experience economy aspect to bring their users real-life situations to meet others in person. They experimented with a Run Date Festival in Hong Kong -- the city chosen because it has the most active daily login rates worldwide, according to CMB cofounder and COO Dawoon Kang.
The 5K run is designed to be an offline experience "to expand our omni-channel strategy," much like e-commerce giants Amazon and Alibaba have recently done taking their online baskets to offline brick-and-mortars, says Kang. "Consumer brands need multiple touch points," she adds. "We aim to create more of these authentic connections such as adult summer camps by engaging in shared experiences together." More than 2,000 locals took part in the charity run that pairs participants to complete interactive obstacle courses.
Building love on the blockchain
Meanwhile, one of Asia's oldest dating services -- "Lunch Actually" -- is jumping on the ICO (initial coin offering) bandwagon. The project, named Viola.AI, not only boasts real ID verification on the blockchain using smart contracts and digital wallets to weed out fake profiles, the disruptive dating service is decentralizing love advisory-leveraging machine learning. Similar to cloud-based, voice-controlled Alexa, Viola aims to act as an intelligent personal relationship assistant with the goal of sustaining couples from courtship to marriage. "We've been called Siri with empathy," exclaims CEO and cofounder Violet Lim, who leverages her 14 years in the industry across six countries with four apps and three offline matchmaking services in Asia.
Viola's capabilities will include taking the initiative in checking both party's calendar, booking a restaurant of their liking, sending reminders and providing directions. Applying more than one billion data points in dating advisory with artificial intelligence, the software has ambitions to offer relevant advice, and proactively prompt couples ahead of special occasions or relationship milestones to help resolve challenges before conflicts arise.
In addition to addressing security and trust issues around online dating services, the cryptographic token issued from the ICO will serve as a community currency in the Viola marketplace. According to the white paper, the Viola token is slated to be used to pay for goods and services, bidding for crowdsourced relationship advice, or used as a reward for completing certain actions.
Making connections with bitcoin
In a further effort to facilitate love and lust, one dating app has managed to combine the concept of soulmate with satoshism. "Luxy" advertises itself as the mobile app for affluent singles. The secretive Hong Kong-based founder, who only goes by his first name Tim T., vouches for the service's "reliable verification process," which screens for "the wealthiest men" and "the most beautiful women."
Individuals must prove an annual income of $200,000 or higher to qualify for membership, or be voted in for free by community members based on attractiveness. Its website claims one out of every two active members earns more than $500,000, while 41% are considered millionaires. The exclusive service can cost as much as $450 for an in-app premium purchase that allows users to filter their search according to wealth. That payment can now be transacted using bitcoin.
A brand manager at Luxy, Raffael Krause explains the logic behind their business decision. "Introducing crypto will help Luxy align ourselves with the current lifestyles of the successful entrepreneurs and business people within our community," he says. " Many of our users are entrepreneurs, and a significant number are in this industry. Accepting bitcoin is just the first step towards integrating blockchain capabilities with Luxy."
How to find love in 2018
With access to potential matches just a swipe away, dating apps are an increasingly normal tool for singles to meet new people. The question is how long can these apps retain the attention of users? Lunch Actually's Lam says it's a double-edged sword, "If you do a bad job, they leave. If you do a good job and find them a successful match they leave as well."
Still, a multi-billion dollar business, innovating in the dating space whether for instant gratification or for meaningful partnership has a lot of room for creativity.