Project Overview: The Dating Machine

Intro and idea generation

The PG02 Cycle 1 project is titled “‘Accomplices’ — Avatars and other Alter Egos” and is defined by a project brief tasking students to consider the differences between physical and digital bodies and design “an uncommon version of an ‘Accomplice’.

To fulfill the above stated task I was joined in a randomized group of four people, aided by our tutor Andrew Marsh. Our first session involved initial brainstorming, where we talked about the ‘AAA’ (Accomplices, Avatars & Alter Egos) and ways to consider these as a design constraint. After the brainstorm we had produced several very different branches all connected to the theme. Obvious ones were super hero alter egos, crime duos like Bonnie and Clyde and we also went abstract in the way that we wrote up ‘technology’ as a symbiotic/parasitic sort of thing that people find it hard to live without, and the machines require humans to keep them powered or fueled.

After the brainstorm we were to present for the rest of class and basically explained our train of thought from beginning to end. We presented three main ideas sprung from the session and the third and final concept received not only raised eyebrows and some laughter, it also received some encouraging (slightly worried) feedback after a quick Q&A with course leader Brigitta Zics. We decided, due to positive reception, to stick with this last concept and start working on refining it.


Early development

The above mentioned idea turned out as follows:

Our brainstorm had resulted in phrases like “mundane tasks” and “technology as a helper” and this led me to propose the concept of having a physical robot representing a person and doing that first date of a relationship, as a means of aiding people leading busy lives or simply allowing for people to not potentially waste time dating a person they are not compatible with anyway. As stated above, the idea did require some questions answered before it won over the class…

The Dating Machine’ became the project title and we agreed to each start contemplating ways to pull off such a task in the form of a video product. I will admit that we may have taken the first of our five total weeks before deadline too loosely, seeing as we did not plan any actual tasks, no structure or academic research. We did however meet the day before our next session with Andrew (who let us know that we needed the things just mentioned), where I presented a simple storyboard draft, quickly put together to try and imagine how the project could be pulled off.

The original storyboard, unedited

Research

As Andrew introduced us to the incredible workflow scheduling template called a Gantt chart, we began realizing how short of a time-frame we actually had. We reserved a week for initial research and jumped on topics to read into and present at the next meeting before our third session with Andrew.

My first research topic was ‘Trends’ related to the present-time dating scene in modern societies, putting attention on dating apps like Tinder, Happn, Match.com, etc. My findings were that even though digital dating services were more or less aimed at an older audience, services like Tinder has grown popular also with younger people, due mostly to gamification aspects. Instagram came up in several studies as a means of branding oneself and dating app popularity growth was another recurring topic. Furthermore it seems that people are not afraid of using deception for their purposes of finding a lover, or simply for presenting their own success in life.

from http://cheezburger.com/7359590656

My other topic was ‘Future scope’ of the ‘AAA’ subject, so I looked into projections from creative concept videos depicting augmented reality technology as well as satirical 10-year predictions growing more extreme the closer they came to the year 2080. Other more scientific articles explained that apps like Tinder were going to keep on growing and how the dating scene might look in 2040 based on current research. I also added a link to the commercial VR headset ‘FOVE’, which allows eye-tracking and thus eye contact in digital experiences.


Current stage

Upon presenting our research for Andrew we discussed further with him how we had arrived at a new idea of doing more of a conceptual marketing pitch rather than a commercial video. This led to the refined idea that we might be able to pull off a video product aided by accomplice technology in the form of a smartphone running a mock-up app for finding a dating partner. Once matched the user enters augmented reality aided by the Microsoft Hololens AR glasses, swiping through environments to have the date in. This allows for an immersive experience where both daters will have an exciting or simply romantic backdrop to make their first shared experience memorable. We also played with the idea of choosing a target audience which might benefit from these liberties and the option of projecting the date into the comfort of their living room. People with mental issues like anxiety, physical disabilities or simply being stuck at the office; the use cases stretch widely and we will have to work further on how we are going to progress from here.