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Does Facial Recognition Have A Role In Online Dating?

Match.com’s matching algorithm is ridiculously complex, to the point where they are mashing up quiz answers with behavioral data, and now they are experimenting with facial recognition. Excellent to see them working on facial recognition. I brought that up when I visited the Match mothership a few years ago. Back then I was working with Sobayli, which offered basically any type of pattern matching in images. But they were too startup-y in that they wanted to immediately work with EMC and large data storage companies. I brought them to iDate and…crickets. Sobayli offered image and pattern recognition five years ago, we pitched it to Match, and here Match is finally going for it, good for them.

In addition to asking each member anywhere from 15 to 100 questions, the company weeds through the essays they fill out about what they want and gives points to each user based on each parameter in the system — from education and the vocabulary they use, to hair color and religion. People with a similar amount of points, which are weighted on certain areas, have a greater chance of being compatible.

“We also take historical data into account, as well as distance — people in Dallas are more inclined to date someone far away than someone in Manhattan, who might not want to date someone who lives in Queens,” Thombre said.

The site also looks at what people say they want in a partner and who they are actually pursuing on the site.

“People have a check list of what they want, but if you look at who they are talking to, they break their own rules. They might list ‘money’ as an important quality in a partner, but then we see them messaging all the artists and guitar players,” he said.

Match.com also sends matches based on this behavior: “Similar to Netflix or Amazon, we know that if you liked one person, you might like another that is similar,” Thombre said. “But of course it is different here. Carlito’s Way may be your favorite movie, but in this case, he has to like you back for it to be a match.”

Moving forward, Thombre says Match.com wants to experiment with facial recognition technology via the site.

So Match now asks up to 1/2 as many questions as eHarmony. Having Match watch me react to initial views of dating profiles is both exhilarating and spooky. They really need to create a beta site so a subset of users can participate in the trials instead of limiting to San Diego or Phoenix or wherever they test their stuff.

HowAboutWe took a different track.

“We actually launched HowAboutWe with a robust algorithm, which we subsequently got rid of after realizing that we had put the cart far, far before the horse,” Schildkrout said. “It’s only after you achieve significant liquidity in a market that you can build a useful algorithm.”

Build the framework and make it easy to evolve. they had little idea about what they were doing so early on, but you can make lots of mistakes when you have $20 million in the bank.

Read  How Online Dating Sites Use Data to Find ‘The One’.

Here’s what some other companies are doing with facial recognition.

Marketing Firms Are Mining Your Selfies

Some companies, such as Ditto Labs Inc., use software to scan photos—the image of someone holding a Coca-Cola can, for example—to identify logos, whether the person in the image is smiling, and the scene’s context. The data allow marketers to send targeted ads or conduct market research. Read Smile marketing firms are mining your selfies.

fraunhofer shore app

Over a number of years, researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute have developed software to measure human emotion through face detection and analysis. Dubbed SHORE (Sophisticated High-speed Object Recognition), the technology has the potential to aid communication for those with disabilities. Now the team has repurposed the software as an app for Google Glass, with a view to bringing its emotion-detecting technology to the world.

This could be very cool for dating sites. Let the camera read your reaction to viewing profiles and tweak the algorithm accordingly. Read Fraunhofer’s Google Glass app detects human emotions in real time.

people are good at reading faces

Researchers at Ohio State University found that humans are capable of reliably recognizing more than 20 facial expressions and corresponding emotional states.

Perceiving whether someone is sad, happy, or angry by the way he turns up his nose or knits his brow comes naturally to humans. Most of us are good at reading faces. Really good, it turns out.

So what happens when computers catch up to us? Recent advances in facial recognition technology could give anyone sporting a future iteration of Google Glass the ability to detect inconsistencies between what someone says (in words) and what that person says (with a facial expression). Technology is surpassing our ability to discern such nuances.

Scientists long believed humans could distinguish six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. But earlier this year, researchers at Ohio State University found that humans are capable of reliably recognizing more than 20 facial expressions and corresponding emotional states—including a vast array of compound emotions like “happy surprise” or “angry fear.”

Read  Computers Are Getting Better Than Humans at Facial Recognition.

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Tinder, the Fast-Growing Dating App, Taps an Age-Old Truth – NYTimes.com

Here’s a bunch of stories about Tinder.

CEO leaves Tinder.

Tinder raises cash.

Would you pay for an Undo button on Tinder? What about a travel feature?

Tinder premium features.

Tinder is learning things that the dating industry has known for a decade. But they’re learning based on a billion swipes a day.

 

 

Merry Christmas Dating Scammers

 

 

 

Dating sites use Scamalytics to stop scammers in their tracks, saving them moderation time and the related costs that come with scam and fraud detection.

December and January is a boom time for the Dating Industry but also results in a huge influx of scammers.

Scamalytics’ unique technology looks at the user’s profile data, behavior and device to identify your trusted customers and your scammers in real-time.

To take a Complimentary 60 day trial of our service on your dating site click here.

eHarmony’s New EH+

In the last year, eHarmony has made over a million dollars selling high-touch matchmaking services at $5,000 a pop.

This is much more interesting than the revelation that 70% of its users say they are not satisfied with eHarmony.

Read more at Fast Company.

 

Happy 20th Anniversary Banner Ads

Twenty years ago I was working with Tangent Design and Modem Media to develop interactive content for AT&T and Zima. The guy who’s place I took at Tangent Design ended up founding Razorfish a few months later. Anyone remember The Blue Dot?

This Is The’s World’s First Banner Ad:

first ever banner ad

This is almost the exact size, almost the exact resolution, exact ad.

Of course, it’s not *technically* the first banner ad. There was no “one” first banner ad. Instead, there were around 12-14 banners, which all went live 20 years ago today, on October 27th, 1994. That was when the website HotWired.com first launched on the internet.

When Tangent launched the first paid banner ads on Hotwired, the WIRED Magazine digital network, we were all excited to see what would happen.

The AT&T ad enjoyed Seventy percent clickthrough rate and the number one banner ad on the Internet for over seven months. Today those numbers are unimaginable, but back then we were setting records because there was no competition.

zimalogo

Around the same time, we created the first episodic web site for Zima with Modem Media. All but forgotten today, it was ground-breaking when it launched.

I have both fond and frustrating memories of working on the Zima website, updating the content every week or so with new stories, images, sounds and other cool stuff. All I had was an FTP client and the HotDog HTML Editor. I’m always amazed at how low-fi web design tools have remained over the years. Dreamweaver was a nightmare and today people still hand-code almost most everything if they want to get it right the first time.

I went to WIRED’s office once, sat down with Brian Behlendorf, who did much of the work on the original Apache web server. He had a small SGI machine on his desk, covered with soda stains. I asked what that machine was, and he said, “That’s HotWired.” One machine for the html, images, database and ad server.

The Internet History Podcast has a great audio and text writeup of those early online advertising days. Just about everyone involved is represented, a great history lesson for anyone interested in online marketing.

Seventy percent clickthrough. I wonder how that compares with ads on POF?

Dating Profile Moderation In the Philippines

Most social sites, and some dating sites and apps, use humans in the Philippines to moderate profile content. Over 100,000 people there spend their days looking at the most disturbing things you could imagine, and then some.

Everybody hits the wall, generally between three and five months. You just think, ‘Holy shit, what am I spending my day doing? This is awful.’

“It’s like PTSD…. There is a memory trace in their mind.” Denise and her team set up extensive monitoring systems for their clients. Employees are given a battery of psychological tests to determine their mental baseline, then interviewed and counseled regularly to minimize the effect of disturbing images. But even with the best counseling, staring into the heart of human darkness exacts a toll. Workers quit because they feel desensitized by the hours of pornography they watch each day and no longer want to be intimate with their spouses. Others report a supercharged sex drive. “How would you feel watching pornography for eight hours a day, every day?” Denise says. “How long can you take that?”

I can’t imagine having to look at dating site profiles for eight hours a day, let alone stuff from Whisper and other anonymous apps. Kudos for these people’s efforts to keep our online experience a bit safer and trigger-free.

Read more at WIRED.

Second Life Creator Builds Next-Gen Virtual Worlds

High fidelity

In the early 1990’s I was part of the Boston Computer Society Virtual Reality Group. We built clunky virtual worlds viewable in scary head-mounted monitors and at any time someone in the group had very expensive high-performance computers on loan from various vendors. Things died out over the next few years, the computing power just wasn’t there to make the worlds look realistic.

Fast forward to 2003 when Linden Lab launched SecondLife. More computing power and no head-mounted display required, but the navigation and tools were too geeky for most people. After that wave of hype, SecondLife sputtered along into obscurity.

Now, the creator of SecondLife, Philip Rosedale, is at it again. His new company, High Fidelity, is developing a set of tools to create even more stunning virtual environments.

In an article for the MIT Technology Review, Rosedale talks about High Fidelity, and of course gives a demo. The demo is a nightclub.  This got me thinking about the handful of virtual environments that have launched in recent years targeting online daters looking for a more immersive dating experience. Unlike traditional dating sites, users can experience an online date, including flirting, gifting, a selection of different environments and other offerings.

The only problem is that these companies never went anywhere.

Some of what his company is creating is much the same as Second Life. You download some software and then enter a virtual space where you can steer your avatar around and build stuff. This time, though, building is much easier, the lag mostly eliminated, and the graphics more impressive. As in Second Life, a digital currency (convertible into real currencies) can be used to buy things such as virtual outfits. You can earn it by offering up your spare computer processing power to other people in High Fidelity’s metaverse—a system Rosedale hopes will make it easier to corral the computing power needed to run complex simulations.

At first glance, it appears that High Fidelity could be a great platform for an online virtual environment for dating. Easier tools, Oculus Rift headsets and computing performance improvements mean millions of singles could log in at any time and look for a date. Or perhaps they meet on a traditional dating site, and then have their first date in 3D. I don’t expect the dating industry to dive into 3D dating anytime soon, but it’s a safe bet that some intrepid entrepreneur is going to give 3D dating a shot again.

Tinder Turns on The Revenue Tap

Tinder is going to offer freemium services in a few weeks.

The new premium service will likely let users break away from location limits and expand their Tinder reach. “We are adding features users have been begging us for,” said Rad. “They will offer so much value we think users are willing to pay for them.”

Greg Blatt, the head of IAC’s Match division predicted Tinder could earn $75 million in 2015. Let’s put that number in an envelop and revisit it a year from now. What’s the over/under for them reaching $75 million?

I would imagine that around 5% of Tinder users will go for the premium feature.

The service could have travel-focused features that help move the co ‘into markets beyond dating’.

More at Forbes.

Crowdfunding A New TV Pilot, Love’s Bounty Hunter

loves bounty hunder

 

Love’s Bounty Hunter is a new comedy series that reveals the inner workings of a fictional online dating company and the people who play Cupid there.

Our story follows Claire Desmond, who is coerced into signing a contract with America’s largest online dating company, Love’s Bounty Hunter, as a “featured dater” in Los Angeles. She’s entirely at the whim of the Love’s Bounty Hunter computer algorithms and must go on at least one date with every match the computer finds for her.

In the series, the regular cast of characters will be supplemented with featured cameos from actual online dating insiders: dating coaches, matchmakers, and professional wingmen, just to name a few.  In addition, the show will feature reenactments of crazy dates sourced directly from YOU the audience, featuring celebrities and well–known actors playing opposite the lead characters.

I can think of a pretty solid cast of dating industry folks who could play it real on a show like this. Looking forward to my cameo.

More at Indiegogo.

Cupid Subscriber Count Plummets

I always thought of Cupid as Spark Networks with more adult services. Judging by their current situation, I stand by this.

Cupid, which runs subscription-based dating websites such as Cupid.com, UniformDating.com and LoveBeginsAt.com, announced £3m ($4.9m) in pre-tax losses for the six months ending June, an increase of 20% from the previous year.

Show me niche dating network that’s not running a deficit. This is par for the course. But then, scary subscriber numbers.

At the end of June 2012, Cupid’s sites had 113,000 paying subscribers; by June 2014, they had just 48,000, each of whom pays the company only about £20. Increased competition and a rise in marketing costs to attract and retain customers has weakened the firm’s position, according to Phil Gripton, its boss. In the first half of 2012 Cupid spent 48p on marketing to attract each new user across its sites; now it has to spend four times as much. The development of specialist dating websites for groups as varied as wrinklies and clowns have also made it difficult for Cupid’s main websites to make money.

That is a tremendous drop in paying customers. Again, reminds me of Spark Networks, specifically American Singles.

In 2013, Cupid PLC sold off all of their casual (adult) dating businesses, which represented 70% of their overall revenue. In retrospect, that doesn’t seem like a very good idea. But probably necessary if they want to appear as a more legitimate dating network.

To combat the rise of free dating apps, Cupid developed its own free location-based dating app, basically a Tinder clone, called Tangle, which it will launch in October.

It looks like several people are increasing their stake in Cupid stock.

Read more at The Economist.