A few weeks ago, a group of researchers from Stanford University and the University of New Mexico published the study Disintermediating your friends, which showed that in 2017 around 40 percent of American heterosexual couples met online, with that number jumping to 65 percent with same-sex couples. The news understandably attracted a great deal of attention, now that online dating is officially becoming the most popular way of finding a romantic partner. If dating apps like Tinder, Match, and Bumble digitised the way we connect with and meet potential matches, Denver-based Kevin Teman wants to push online dating to the next level with his startup AIMM.
AIMM stands for artificially intelligent matchmaker and it functions as a 360 degree AI dating coach. The device utilises a female voice with a British accent to collect relevant information and build an in-depth profile of the user, making sure they can find the best long-term partner according to their taste as well as their habits and life goals. The specificity with which AIMM wants to find a perfectly compatible partner compared to Tinder and other popular dating apps shows how AIMM targets singles looking for long-term relationships, rather than casual dates with unpredictable outcomes.
With the help of ‘phone-calls’ with the app’s AI and specific questions, AIMM provides users with customised feedback and advice on how to behave during a first date, what to say, and how to surprise their partner. “Think of AIMM as an advanced classified and robotic assistant designed to introduce you, coach, and boost you into your real life relationship,” reads AIMM’s website, adding, “AIMM asks questions. AIMM walks you through hypothetical situations, housing choices, life preferences and uses a variety of different question styles to get to know you”.
It comes as no surprise that voice technology is being implemented in dating apps, considering that one in five Americans now owns a voice assistant and that voice-based chatbots are increasingly present in our lives, as reported by the MIT Technology Review. What is more groundbreaking is the app’s capacity to gauge a person’s emotional reaction via a video component. As shown in the presentation video of the app, AIMM can ‘read’ a person’s expression after their first date to understand whether it is worth to move on with the match or not. The video component doesn’t come without its own shortcomings on the accuracy of the feature. According to the MIT Technology Review, emotion-reading technology is far from being accurate as emotional nuances require both context and history to be properly interpreted, and machine learning is far from being ready to do so, thus running a high risk of misinterpreting a person’s feelings.
On top of dubious technological features, the app policy doesn’t appear as progressive as its founder wants to portray it, but rather resonates an outdated and somewhat gender-stereotypical tone—AIMM is designed in a way that only allows men to ask women out and exclusively promotes monogamous relationships, even at their early stages. The app intends to create one to one digital encounters, to make sure “they’re not going to disappear from someone else being interested. For men, this is a huge relief, for women, it means peace of mind knowing you can focus on one person at a time,” as its website states. In addition, AIMM seems to be coded to facilitate heterosexual couples, something Teman confirmed by saying, “They said that the questions seemed like they were all for straight people and there were no questions about Pride lifestyle. So I added some things about—if you’re homosexual, it can go into some questions that are specifically about your lifestyle.”
So far, AIMM has not proved itself particularly successful in matching users with their perfect ‘other’, as it only managed to set up a handful of dates (twelve to be exact) since its launch (among which none were successful). Apart from some wannabe-innovative technology features that don’t seem to be 100 percent functional, both the format and the policy of this dating app do not sound particularly cutting edge or progressive. Kevin Teman’s app aim is to go technologically forward while seemingly promoting backward views on romantic relationships, and it will soon offer users the option to be linked to a human matchmaking service, offering person to person sessions, an odd feature for an app whose main focus is based on its AI system. But despite the numerous flaws, it is possible to grasp through AIMM the direction that dating apps might take in the years to come. AIMM is far from being the app that is set to break the boundaries of AI-implementation, but most of the features it presents—once revised and upgraded—will most likely be present in the dating apps we’ll be using in the future.