Digital Go-Betweens Beat Matchmaking Meekness

New matchmaking robots are taking the lead in helping humans break the ice, giving a three-minute speech introducing couples to one another. Future research aims to expand application to the growing tourism market.

Dating Parties for the Digital Age

Leading IT firm CyberAgent has unveiled “robot matchmaking”—dating parties using robotic matchmakers to lead conversations between prospective partners.

These tabletop helpers help romance-seekers make a match.

At these parties, potential couples sit face-to-face, as with any dating party, but the only voices heard are robots. This new mode of matchmaking, with conversation delegated to robots, is great for those who struggle with communication.

His robot: What’s your hobby, Mari?

Her robot: I recently started to learn the piano.

“What’s your hobby, Mari?” Shyness is no obstacle to learning more about the other party.

Another advantage is apparent when socially awkward questions come up.

Her robot: What’s your current salary?

His robot: I earn an average amount for my age group.

Before the event, participants complete a 45-point questionnaire about their interests, likes, and dislikes, which staff use to compose a three-minute robot chat per couple, focusing on shared interests. For people anxious about what to discuss on the first date, these meet-ups provide automaton assistance.

Four Couples Formed with Robotic Help

Robots lead the conversation for three minutes per couple.

So what did the participants think?

One man commented: “The robots help with the initial exchange, and then it’s up to us to build on that.” A female attendee, meanwhile, noted: “Trying to be polite when meeting so many people can be exhausting, but that wasn’t the case.” And the final outcome? Of the 28 participants, 8 ended up dating.

CyberAgent hopes to advance its research to further develop automated conversation technology that could potentially be applied in interactions with international tourists, whose numbers are on the rise.

Business consultant Hideo Matsue comments: “The robots are adorable, and put people at ease. When people are shy, or placed in situations where they have to deal with international visitors, conversation can stall at the outset, going nowhere. These little machines could provide assistance by filling in those blanks.”

(Originally broadcast in Japanese on FNN's Prime News Alpha, February 12, 2019. Translated by Nippon.com.)

Click here to view this story in Japanese.

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