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Smart video features to improve dating apps

Image credit: https://wistia.com/learn/production/shooting-video-by-yourself

Povilas S
Povilas S Apr 10, 2021
The background: Photos are a basic element from which most people judge whether they like a certain person or not on dating apps. The problem with pictures is that people look different in different pictures and differently in reality. Pictures don't convey how the person looks when he/she is active, e.g. engaged in a conversation, you can't see their live facial expressions, hear their voice. This is very important for deciding whether the person is attractive to you. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures.

One might argue that pictures are enough to get the first impression and then if people match they can have a video chat if they want to. Sure, but a video chat is already like a date. You need to have guts for it, you need to arrange the time, you can't just leave the chat after one minute if you are not interested, etc. Having more representative info about the person in advance is very convenient and saves time and potentially negative emotions for both sides.

The solution seems easy, - the users should have a possibility to film themselves and put a short video on their profile. However, the latter doesn't work in practice and that is clear from the fact that almost no one has a video on their profile on those apps. The reason is obviously not because it's hard to implement such a feature. A partial reason might be because it is considered unnecessary, which I tried to prove wrong above, but I think the main reason is that it's not user-friendly. Here are few likely drawbacks:
  • Most people wouldn't like to film themselves out of the blue, they would feel uncomfortable, they'd have to come up with what to do, what to say, how to present themselves in the video. Taking a selfie is much easier. Finding a somewhat fun video in your personal archive where someone else filmed you spontaneously (either alone or in a company) is an option, but still quite complicated - you need to search for a proper one, it might be of poor quality or you might be poorly visible in it, etc.
  • Even if someone would want to make a filming selfie of themselves, the video made with smartphone's front camera won't do much good. Poor filming quality of that camera is one thing, but constant movement of the smartphone while holding it in your hand makes it even worse. It's possible to rest the smartphone on some platform at a 45 degree or so angle, but this is additional hassle.
  • In order for the video to best represent the person it would have to be an interview/podcast type of video - where a person engages in conversation/answers questions, reacts, etc., and is filmed up-close. This simulates an actual meeting with the person for the one who is watching.
Tinder introduced a possibility to make very short videos (a few frames basically) of yourself to give users a glimpse of your moving image. This is user-friendly for the selfie maker, but such "videos" are pretty useless at representing the person.

The solution: An app could turn video making process into an interesting experience. One way to do this is to simulate an interview by providing questions that are randomly picked by the algorithm (so that the user won't know in advance what questions they will get). The user checks the camera, sound, how they look, etc. and once satisfied clicks start button, then the first question appears on the screen, like "Given all the possibilities, which place would you like to visit next in the world and why?", just a random example. The user then speaks the answer out loud, trying to look into the camera.

What questions would be provided is a very important part. All the questions that form the database from which the app randomly pics them should be carefully selected/created by staff members. There should be many questions in the database. Questions could be suggested by the app users and then the best ones selected by staff. The database could be frequently updated.

The algorithm would only serve the function of random picking and make sure the questions don't repeat. Good questions would make an interesting experience for the one being filmed and this, in turn, would make a good video to watch. Not knowing what question you'll get brings spontaneity and makes the experience more organic. Such an experience is pleasantly challenging.

A rather small number of questions should make the filming session, maybe ten or so. If the person is not satisfied with the video, he/she might repeat the process as many times as they want, but the questions would be different each time. This would enable the person to warm up with the process and feel more confident, but not to rehearse or fully control the outcome. When satisfied with the outcome the user would add the video to their profile. Such filming session should best be done on a pc (using either a built-in camera or an additional one) and not a smartphone. Most dating apps have website versions, this way the video from a pc can be easily added to person's profile.

The users watching such a video on someone's profile would first see the question written on the screen and after that the video answer. The video on person's profile should be accessible to other users only after they match with that person. Firstly because of privacy issues - showing your up-close video, in which you are answering questions, to potentially anyone on the app is more unsettling in terms of privacy than just showing your photos. Also, the users who are just swiping through profiles might be drawn to watch those videos and would get tired more quickly, since watching a video takes time, this would slow down the whole "swiping experience".

Do you have experience with dating apps? If so, can you relate with pictures being much more deceiving than videos? Maybe you have other ideas on how to bring a virtual representation of a person closer to reality?
Creative contributions

Dating apps check the authenticity of photos or videos of people.

Deru Xu
Deru Xu Apr 13, 2021
Generally speaking, people in photos can be modified more easily, which often reduces the authenticity of the photos, because people can add special effects to their photos or modify the people, such as making their faces thinner. The authenticity of the video is higher. Just as we want to see people on the dating app look more real, the other party is also looking forward to our real photos or videos. Therefore, is it possible to upload the captured videos or photos only through the dating app (the dating app itself has Shooting function), let the program itself become a "notary" of the authenticity of the characters.
Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
This is a bit different problem you are tapping in here, although also an important one. The solution you are suggesting would work for that purpose, but the biggest drawback I see is that photos made through the apps themselves are usually of lower quality. People want to look good in pictures, this is just natural, and not allowing them to use better options would quickly make the app unappealing.

Photoshopping and other "post-production" modifications are one thing, but better quality and other more advanced photographing parameters are another. Maybe instead an app could prescreen the uploaded pictures for heavy modifications and if detected, reject such pictures. I'm not sure how easy/hard is for algorithms to detect photoshopping, but I believe it shouldn't be that difficult.

Deru Xu
Deru Xua month ago
Povilas S I also agree with your ideas. Maybe by improving technical means, we can see the true face of each other, and the best thing is that both parties are sincere on the date. After all, we don't want to be deceived. 😀Your thinking also reminded me that you can not only make friends by answering questions, but also by playing online fun games. The App itself can make and design some such games to suit different groups of people:
(1) Games with cooperative clearance (you can pass Voice or video actions);
(2) Two-person competition (voice chat or video can be used during the game);
(3) Multiplayer games;
(4) Word games;
(5) Others.
If you don’t like the other party, you can end the game and exit the chat. Of course, it is not only limited to games, but can also be performed through singing, dancing, and even musical instrument performances, etc.These methods can be online or offline.

It helps if the interviewer is genuinely interested in what you have to say

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Apr 22, 2021
I'm guessing that some people might have a problem with the "fakeness" of the entire filming yourself situation. Some (*cough* me) might feel comfortable talking in person while they don't feel comfortable talking with themselves and looking into the camera as if there is someone there:)

This could be overcome by:
  • A lot of practice and owning/deciding which videos get released. That way there is no pressure, you can suck a bunch of time before you relax enough for the video to feature the real you.
  • The next best thing to having a real person whom you feel comfortable around interview you is to be interviewed by a curious AI via an app.
Both of the above points could be merged into such an app.
Povilas S
Povilas S17 days ago
Your first point is what I was suggesting in the idea description, that the user should be able to repeat the interviewing/recording process as many times as they want, but they would get different randomly picked questions each time, that way one could get warmed up and comfortable with the process, but wouldn't be able to rehearse the answers:)

Time is a scarcity, and this shapes the format of most apps

Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia Apr 14, 2021
In this contribution I want to talk about one of the main factors that developers take into account when developing their apps: time. We live in a day and age where our free time is limited. We could almost consider free time as a currency, and the technological boom of the internet era and the smartphone has brought us to a point where we are used to immediacy. We want things in the moment and we don't want to dedicate too much time and/or effort to things that are not crucial to us. For this reason, if things take too much time or attention from us, we tend to drift away from them. App designers take this into consideration by making their apps attractive, easy to navigate and something that gives us instant gratification. Dating apps like Tinder base themselves in the concept that "you can look over a hundred people in two minutes and pick the ones you would like to meet". Then once you have a match with those people, so you know they are interested in you, then you can put some effort into it. Think about it, if you use one of those apps, how much time on average do you spend "rating" a person before you swipe right or left? Probably less than 5 seconds, most time not even 1 second. Would you watch a 10 minute video on each one of them in order to decide if you like them? Probably not.

And true, photography can lie and tell things that are not true about a person, but so can a rehearsed video. As with most things, I believe technology cannot and will probable never be able to substitute the real thing. The real connection with a real person when you are really talking to them. I believe even texting is too fake, calculated and distant for that. For me, the only thing that can achieve a level like that is a phone or video call. That's when you really see if you connect with a person. When you can spend an hour or two just talking to someone and being comfortable and having fun with them, that's when you get to know who they are.

But how do you achieve that with a dating app? Is that impossible? Maybe, but we could get closer. I believe apps like Tinder should try to incorporate this natural, improvised feeling to the interaction between users. Probably not in the "match" phase, but further down the line. It would probably work better than texting, which can be so fake and open to misinterpretation. It could lead people to better find other people they are compatible with and actually do some good apart from all the superficiality normally associated with these kind of apps.

Can we come up with a way to implement something like this in a dating app or maybe adapt what I mentioned with the original idea?
Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
To answer your first paragraph - I addressed this in the idea description, the video on a person's profile should be visible only to those who matched with that person. After you matched, you already went through each other's first superficial filtration phase and then you can (if you want) spend more time to get to know more about the person, including watching the video.

I agree that texting creates misinterpretations and might make a wrong impression about the person. But it does convey something, perhaps mostly about how they think, express themselves, etc. Therefore it serves more as a second "filtration phase" not for realistically representing the person.

An audio-only chat is not a good option in a dating context, because visual appearance and facial expressions are very important. You might like how a person communicates through phone and then create a different visual image of them in your mind accordingly and get disappointed when meeting them in reality, especially if you've only seen a few not very clear/representative pictures of them before.

A video chat is the best (after reality). But as I mentioned in the idea description, the problem with video chat (and in fact with audio chat similarly) is that it is already like a date - it takes arranging the proper time for both, you need to have guts for it, you probably won't just leave the video chat after a minute if a person turned out to disinterest you, because you wouldn't want to hurt their feelings, etc., so committing to a video chat after seeing a few photos and reading few text lines might not seem worth your time.

A video you can just turn off if you see that you don't really like the person in that sense. And if the person is talking in the video, answering questions, like in a podcast or an interview, watching it is pretty close to having a video chat, just impersonal. After you've seen such a video you'd have a more accurate impression of how they look and communicate in reality and (in case you find them attractive) would be more confident to have a video chat or a date, this saves time for both, coming full circle to the first problem you mentioned.

Implementing video answers in private messages

Povilas S
Povilas S Apr 15, 2021
To take the idea a step further, it would be cool if users could hide questions (or simply any type of text) in private conversations with their matches and such hidden question would only be made visible to the other party if they agreed to answer it through recorded video (the question would be revealed while recording the video). Recorded video answer would then be shown to the first person.

This is a way to move from the impersonal level (watching a general video with random questions on someone's profile) to the personal, where you can ask questions yourself and get video answers. Again the difference and the benefit over a direct video chat is that this is a good warm-up before it in a form of a fun and a bit challenging game. After a few such recorded messages from both sides, people would feel more comfortable to have a direct video chat.

Just like on messaging apps it's possible to record an audio message to reply to someone's text, similarly, it could be possible to record a video answer. Not seeing the text initially would add a game element to this. Maybe such a feature could be useful for messaging apps in general, not only dating apps.

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General comments

Spook Louw
Spook Louw22 days ago
There are platforms for online speed dating that kind of solve the problems you mention. Participants essentially interview each other via video calls and match with potential partners based on their impressions during the interview.

Of course, your idea allows users to participate on their own time, which might be more convenient.
Povilas S
Povilas S16 days ago
Spook Louw Yes, this idea is more about improving conventional dating apps (tinder-like). Speed dating through video calls is a bit of a different thing. Implementing videos, in this case, would allow users to decide whether they want to have a video call or a date with their matches at all when speed dating starts directly from the more challenging and more random approach.

The latter might be good for getting out of your comfort zone/overcoming fears, etc., but you'd definitely have to do a lot of small talks with people you don't really like or connect to, this might get really tiring quickly. Increasing selectivity and chances to match/communicate with people that you truly resonate with helps safe energy and brings truly satisfactory results quicker. Or at least I think so, I didn't try speed dating. Different approaches might work better for different people.