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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
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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

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.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years 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:)
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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.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years 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.

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Deru Xu
Deru Xu3 years 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.
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Quick win milestone: Short video note sending with recording guidance from the app on how to improve it

salemandreus Jun 23, 2021
I propose this as a lightweight initial “quick win” in achieving the 80/20 rule especially if we want to reduce the tech infrastructure burden initially (as is often the case) while troubleshooting quality and scaling up, before building what would be far larger features.
Having quick win milestones is ideal in software development of customer-facing apps like this for multiple reasons (reliable fallback if you need to pivot without wasting budget/effort, fast feedback on how people utilise and respond to a video product) so you are able to adapt as necessary early (it’s taken as a rule in software development that changes get more expensive the later you make them).
The benefits of video
I love your idea as I’m a big fan of more video integration in dating apps. I personally prefer to see a video of someone before meeting up.
Reasons a lot of people are more comfortable meeting up once they’ve seen a video of someone:
  1. A rough guage of physical attraction
  2. A safeguard against being catfished
  3. Body language compatibility, as non-verbal communication makes up the vast majority of our communication with people in person
Camera quality vs Lossy Compression
You mentioned that smartphones don't have great front cameras. The technology on them has actually greatly improved - they can even be used up to a semi-professional or professional capacity - quite a lot of professional YouTubers use phone cameras for vlogging.
A friend of mine who is a cameraperson and studied filmography was explaining this to me when I was considering setting up my own youtube channel on a budget.
The main limiting factor when recording is more often sound recording and also having sufficient lighting where you record. I go into more detail on microphones for different sound recording needs depending in this discussion on portable soundproof coverings.
It’s most likely the graininess you experienced in video call or sending videos is due to the lossy compression (which I also discuss in that above link though from a sound point of view), not the camera itself. (As an experiment, try video calling on different chat platforms to see the different compressions in action - I prefer to call friends on Google Duo over Telegram for this reason.)
This is because communications apps often prioritise handling multiple calls and maintaining connectivity over call quality as both compete for bandwidth when streaming, and similarly with file uploads prefer uploading smaller files over big ones.
Thus even if you’re able to get a professionally done video to upload as a file rather than doing a call you the app itself must not severely compress the file otherwise your efforts would be wasted. I suspect this is why many dating apps now have Instagram integration as they do not want to be bothered with managing photo and video quality when there are apps that do it better.
The solution to video, “personal” touch and quality:
My suggestion as a “quick win” is to allow people to send video notes as DMs. Grindr is an example of a dating app that already has this - there is the option to have video calls but also to send a short video note, similarly to what you can do on Telegram with either voice or video.
This is a quick, easy mechanism to reassure someone that they are talking to a real person who recorded them a personalised video responding to one of their questions, which also encourages platform safety.
Sending a video note is less pressure than a call. People can send a video note when they’re ready or make themselves look presentable, move to a better location or opt-out if they’re not up for it, which all reduce the pressure, time sensitivity and performance anxiety of taking calls, yet at the same time still give a more “natural” and personal sense to the interaction due to it being directed specifically at the person they’re talking to. One mechanism that would be particularly important would be the ability to pause/review/replay your video note before sending it rather than automatically sending once you stop pressing record. This similarly helps alleviate the fears of being “live” on camera.
As a bonus, the app can use facial recognition tech to help you find the best angle and lighting to capture your video (similarly to how is done in a lot of KYC compliance apps which require you to take selfies that match your ID) and can even identify what contrasting colours look best against your skin in that lighting etc.
Maintaining Video quality: There are several trade offs you can make to can still keep up video quality if you do this, rather than having to compress: 1) Time limit: I believe Grindr limits video notes to a minute long, which is one way of managing the media load potentially without compromising quality (although I do not know if they themselves do this to prioritise video quality or if they simply don’t want to handle big video files). 2) Wait X minutes, increasing: Another way would be ensuring that people cannot send more than one video note every 5 minutes and then grow those waiting times exponentially if people continue to spam calls. (This will help with traffic management but also will help weed out bots, which would also dissuade people from using the app in the first place particularly if they are spammy).
3) Receiver consents to receive videos or a maximum number of unviewed videos sent: If someone has not viewed your third or fourth video note the app could pause your sending video notes until the person actually views the latest ones or at least checks their messages.
Alternatively the app could ask the receiver if they want to view the video and only start uploading it and making it available for download from there - before that it is simply cached on the phone similar to an email in your outbox tray.
These would be mechanisms against to help reduce unnecessary traffic as well as preserving video quality, (also preventing spambots) which would also serve our needs economically - since the primary purpose of the app is a dating app not general communications you thus discourage its use for general purposes and remove the burden of the chat app having to be particularly good, keeping the focus on meeting new people rather than keeping stale interactions on a platform that isn’t designed to compete with full chat apps.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years ago
It's nice to hear that someone feels the same about the advantage of videos in online dating context:) About video notes you suggest - I was thinking about the same while writing this idea, similarly as facebook messenger has voice messages that you can quickly record and send, the same situation could be with video messages.

Actually, I posted a related contribution "Implementing video answers in private messages", just that I suggested that videos would be recorded as responses to hidden questions from the person you have a private chat with - their question would be revealed only after the other party agreed to record the video as an answer:) But this could also be implemented as a feature to send the video message whenever one wants, as you suggest.

I like your proposition that such videos might only be sent only after the receiving party agreed to receive them, to minimize spamming. One thing I'm still not convinced of is that smartphone cameras are suitable for making good videos - even if the quality of front cameras on some of the smartphones are reasonable enough, there's still a complication of smartphone moving while you hold it in your hand, to make it stable you'd have to have a special platform bent in an angle to rest the device on.

From my own experience, video chats done using smartphone cameras are the worst in terms of how the person looks during such a chat (compared to video chats done through the same app on a laptop) - people hold smartphones as they walk around, or lie in bed, etc., they tend to move their hand closer and away from their face, hold the phone in various angles and this makes their face look somewhat distorted and weird, it's really a bad representation of how the person looks in reality.

You at least have to have a stable camera for this and be in a rather fixed position yourself, so sitting near a laptop and using its camera is much better. But of course, I understand that smartphone is much more convenient for quick video messages during the chat on a dating app, cause almost everybody uses those apps only on their phones, not computers, so using a specialized platform to rest the phone on might be a solution.
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salemandreus3 years ago
Povilas S I was thinking more as an initial/general feature as this would definitely be about the quick win and getting a competitive advantage over other dating apps that hadn't rolled it out yet. Mainly because functionality to record a short video note as a message could be rolled out almost immediately.

One reason was in thinking about it from a "how" point of view it would fit well with general practice from the software industry of working in iterations and vertical slices of functionality wherever possible, and breaking down these slices into features by the 80/20 rule could help a lot simply because of how easily larger features like this can grow in scope, so in terms of the implementation process, we'd be having workable milestones along the way which are customer-usable.
It would also be a useful gauge of how often people use that feature and give us a means of getting feedback in order to keep us agile. In the hypothetical where the majority never end up caring for video in its current form or about the specific types of questions or algorithms of showing them, we get that feedback immediately and can start researching how to improve those mechanics before we enhance them into larger features.

Recording answers to questions would work well logistically as the next step after that.
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salemandreus3 years ago
Also it was partly inspired by what you and Darko Savic mentioned - that you like the functionality to prepare whereas he mentioned some people feel self-conscious/fake when recording as opposed to calling a specific person.

This made me consider also how many people's prevalent fear is that the person they are speaking to is not how they look in their pictures or there will be no chemistry in actual conversation, but still bypassing the pressure of a live call which some (*cough* me 😉 ) get stressed about immediate "live" on camera pressure.

I see this as a sort of compromise/halfway mark between your different preferences of live and prerecorded, but also a way to test that the person is who they say by being able to just ask them any unique question and have them video note their response to you.

I think natural video noting as a quick win potentially alleviates that primary concern as the 80/20 for most users. Although the conversation is asynchronous with video noting functionality, potentially it would still feel more natural and closer to a video chat if it's a feature within the conversation and I find that if it's one on one people tend to be more themselves when they're still envisioning a specific person they're talking to rather than if they're putting up a video accessible for people outside of the DM.
And maybe that'd give people more confidence to do an actual video call and/or meet in person - it's a smaller increment of social pressure for introverts like me who panic when the phone rings even when it's friends.😄
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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?
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years 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.
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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 Louw3 years 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.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years 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.
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