Fancy dating an Emma Stone lookalike?

Dating apps are using artificial intelligence to match people, with one using facial-recognition technology to help users find a match that can look like a celebrity

LISBON • Forget about swiping through endless profiles.

Dating apps are using artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest where to go on a first date, recommend what to say and even find a partner who looks like your favourite celebrity.

Until recently, smartphone dating apps - such as Tinder which lets you see in real time who is available and "swipe" if you wish to meet someone - left it up to users to ask someone out.

But to fight growing fatigue from searching through profiles in vain, the online dating sector is turning to AI to help arrange meetings in real life and act as a dating coach.

These new uses for AI - the science of programming computers to reproduce human processes like thinking and decision-making - by dating apps were highlighted at the four-day Web Summit in Lisbon, which wrapped up last Thursday.

Online dating pioneer eHarmony said it is developing an AI-enabled feature which nudges users to suggest meeting in person after they have been chatting for a while.

"There's a lot of activity on dating apps but... not a lot of dates," said eHarmony CEO Grant Langston. "Guys don't know how to ask. It's astounding how many people need help and we think we can do that in an automated way."

British dating app Loveflutter plans to use AI to analyse chats between its users to determine their compatibility. "We will ping a message saying 'You are getting along really well, why don't you go on your first date'," said Loveflutter co-founder Daigo Smith.

Loveflutter already suggests places to go on a first date, using information from Foursquare, an app that helps smartphone users find nearby restaurants, bars and clubs.

"It takes the pressure off organising that first date," said Mr Smith.

Tinder founder Sean Rad said AI will "create better user experiences" and predicted that, in the future, iPhone's Siri Voice assistant would act as a matchmaker.

An entirely voice-operated dating app called AIMM, which uses AI to mirror a human-matchmaking service, is already being tested in Denver where it has 1,000 users.

A soothing voice on the app asks what you would like to do on a date or where you would like to travel. It suggests suitable matches based on your personality. When you have picked someone you would like to meet, the app tells you about him or her.

After several days, it will help set up a time for a phone call between you and your match and give advice for your first date, based on what it knows about the other person.

"It will say things like 'based on her personality inclination, she is a traditional person. I would recommend dinner and a walk'," said Mr Kevin Teman, the app's developer.

The app reminds you to ask questions about "things important to you" during the date, he added.

After the date, the app checks in with both people to see how it went and whether they should continue to see each other or keep looking.

Mr Teman hopes to make it available across the United States early next year.

Badoo, a London-based dating app, is using AI and facial-recognition technology to let users find a match that looks like anyone, including their ex or celebrity crush.

Users can upload a picture of someone and the app will find lookalikes among Badoo's more than 400 million users worldwide.

Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone, singer Beyonce and reality TV star Kim Kardashian are the most searched for celebrities globally since Badoo introduced the feature - dubbed Lookalikes - last year.

However, not everyone is convinced that AI can help in the search for love.

Among the doubters at the Web Summit was United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who said he was "a little bit sceptical" that it could help "people choose their soulmates".

"I'm very happy I have chosen my soulmate by traditional methods," said the former Portuguese prime minister, who is married to a Lisbon city councillor, in his opening address to the gathering.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 11, 2018, with the headline 'Fancy dating an Emma Stone lookalike?'. Print Edition | Subscribe