Now, date over Virtual Reality | #tinder | #pof


Hyderabad: Dating, hanging out with a friend and matchmaking all have been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, if the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) researchers at the International Institute of Information Technology-Hyderabad (IIITH) are to be believed, there is still hope at hand.

Comparing interactions of students on chat-based app Tinder as well as Virtual Reality, they found that VR scored over the former in terms of gauging potential ‘real’ date material.

According to the IIITH official blog, the institute’s researchers Tejaswini Yeleswarapu and Pranav Nair under the guidance of Prof Nimmi Rangaswamy undertook a comparative study, the research findings of which have been accepted for submission to the Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW) journal.

“While this is a specific experiment in a specific cultural context, it became a unique and versatile kind of HCI engagement with elements of qualitative and quantitative analysis, social science and human computer interaction,” said Prof Rangaswamy, who heads the Social and Human Applications for AI (SAHAAI) centre at IIITH.

For the study, 15 pairs of heterosexual university students aged between 18 and 23 were selected. “In the first phase of the experiment, we manually emulated the matchmaking process of online dating apps like Tinder by sending out preference forms to both male and female participants,” said Tejaswini, adding that for the first three days, the matched pairs interacted only over Tinder. On the fourth day, they were made to interact over a customized platform RecRoom, a VR game.

The same participants were paired up in VR to gauge experiences in both mediums, but to remove bias, their identities were kept anonymous.

“They didn’t know they were interacting with the same person in the VR setup,” said Tejaswini, adding that once the VR experience was complete, the users were asked to compare various parameters of both the mediums, such as the degree of interactivity, self-projection, strength of attraction, how voice, touch, and bodily immersion compare with emojis and so on.

“VR emerged as a powerful preference over Tinder in terms of gauging potential of an emerging relationship or an overall dating experience. The VR environment was set out to replicate a ‘real’ romantic setting complete with comfortable couches, ping pong table and a dartboard, a dimly-lit bar area, stage for karaoke and so on,” they said.

Since touch is a very important dimension reflecting one’s interest in the courtship ritual, the VR setup also allowed users to physically move towards and virtually “touch” each other through haptics.

The study found that 28 of the 30 respondents felt VR allowed them to make an informed decision on whether to meet in real. “A partner found unworthy after a chat on Tinder was labelled a potential date material after the VR meet and vice-versa,” Tejaswini said.


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