Every generation has complained that dating is harder for them than it was for their parents or grandparents. Forty years from now, our own grandchildren will probably be telling us that meeting partners is almost impossible, and that we had it easy. It’s hard to imagine how that could be the case, though. Meeting a potential new partner used to be no more complicated than finding someone in a bar and asking for their phone number. Nowadays, it’s far more likely that you’ll do it through an app on your mobile phone. Even that might be too easy now, because a new app called Iris is threatening to bring artificial intelligence into the equation.
We’ve seen artificial intelligence make a few significant breakthroughs within the past twelve months. We’re still reeling from the news, reported only days ago, that an AI called GameGAN has managed to clone the classic arcade game Pac Man – ghosts and background music and all – just from watching it and monitoring user input. The resultant game isn’t an exact match to the original, but it works, and it’s a staggering achievement considering that no human being was involved in coding it. Copying something is different from creating something, but it’s obvious to everyone that this is a massive ‘first step’ for the involvement of AI in the gaming industry.
That Pac Man invention isn’t the only aspect of the gaming industry touched by AI within the past year. In the United Kingdom, artificial intelligence will check in with you if you start to bet erratically when playing slots. The games are a popular source of entertainment in the country and are fine when played safely, but come with the same pitfalls that apply to all forms of gambling. If the AI notices that the amounts you wager on the online slots start to vary significantly or become erratic, it will step in and ask you if you’ve considered whether or not placing another bet is appropriate. If it’s especially concerned, it can temporarily lock you out of the online slots game you’re playing and give you an enforced ‘chill out’ time to reconsider. We were always told that AI might destroy us all, and yet here it is looking after us. Getting us a date, though, might be a step too far for some people.
We all know the basics of what a dating app looks like and what it does by now. Many of the people reading this will have used such an app, and it might even have connected you with the partner you share your life with right now. For thousands of people, though, dating apps have become stale and dull. There are signs that young people are especially likely to be turned off by Tinder, and that’s down to repetitiveness of it. You can strain your thumbs swiping through dating profiles on the app for hours on end, occasionally matching with someone based on appearance but then finding out you have nothing in common with them. After a while, it becomes soulless and dehumanizing. The profiles that appear on your screen are no longer people; they’re just faces and names, cycling past you as quickly as the items you browse on a grocery website. People want to make better connections in quicker times – and that’s where the developers of Iris are hoping their new app can step in.
What’s especially interesting (or especially sinister, depending on your feelings) about Iris is that it learns from you as you use it. In the early stages, the app works the same way that Tinder does. It matches you based on your location and a few preferences, but every time you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to someone, it takes that data into account. If you consistently say ‘no’ to someone who has a certain interest or is of a certain appearance, it will stop showing you those options. If you demonstrate a strong preference for a certain interest group or personality type, it will show you more potential matches from within those parameters. To put it another way, the AI is filtering potential bad dates out before you even see them. It’s effectively chaperoning you.
At the same time as filtering out bad dates, Iris will attempt to make sure that the people who you express interest in are who they appear to be. It comes with some innovative-sounding anti-catfishing software. Everyone who uploads a picture of themselves to the platform has to prove that the picture is an accurate representation of them. The app will store the picture, and then ask the user to look into their camera. If it doesn’t feel that the picture and the user are the same people, it will refuse to allow the picture to be used as a profile shot. Many people know the feeling of turning up to meet somebody you’ve met through an online dating medium only to find out that they look considerably different – and less appealing – compared to the person you thought you were speaking to on the internet. If Iris works, it might be able to make that experience a thing of the past. That’s something to store up and explain to your grandchildren when they complain about how hard dating is in the future!
As Iris is still in the beta stage and is only available from the product’s website (and even then only by requesting an SMS with further instructions), it’s hard to say how successful or popular the app might be just yet. We can also think of a potential pitfall. If the app attempts to tighten up your definition of an ‘ideal’ partner every time you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to somebody, it will inevitably run out of people to suggest to you given time. Once you’ve looked at everyone who meets your requirements within your area, there will be nothing more to show you, and therefore no need to keep the app. It’s to be hoped that there’s an option somewhere to discard a few of the preferences you’ve accidentally stored up and widen your net a little. Most people have a ‘type,’ but it’s still fun to veer away from that ‘type’ occasionally and try somebody new!