• Washington Post

AI Can Help You with That Opening Line in An Age of Automated Dating

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
OpenAI and ChatGPT logos are seen in this illustration taken, February 3, 2023.

LOS ANGELES – Coyne Lloyd, a 35-year-old tech investor, was visiting his family in Upstate New York recently when he decided to set up some dates in the city. He fired up Hinge, his preferred dating app, and swiped on a few interesting women. After receiving a couple of matches, he turned, out of curiosity, to a new AI dating tool called Rizz to break the ice.

“There’s some amount of mental work and barrier to thinking of how to compose a message [on a dating app],” Lloyd said. “It’s like getting started on a term paper.”

Rizz, which is meant to function as a digital wingman, helps users come up with killer opening lines and responses to potential matches. The company behind it is just one of many start-ups trying to transform romance through artificial intelligence by optimizing and automating online dating, now one of the primary ways by which people find romantic connections.

Using dating apps can be a slog. Women complain that they have to sift through countless matches as men indiscriminately swipe; it is difficult to start conversations with strangers; and many users end up viewing the apps more as a necessary chore than an exciting opportunity to connect with someone new.

Additionally, the world is becoming more automated: Email messages auto-complete, subscription services auto-renew, and any product under the sun is a single click away. Dating apps, meanwhile, still require a level of manual work (swiping, messaging, responding) that can become cumbersome and exhausting.

That is what drove Dmitri Mirakyan, 28, a data scientist in New York, to develop YourMove.ai, an AI dating tool that helps users begin and respond to messages. “This past summer, I got really tired of sifting through and trying to come up with responses on dating apps,” he said. “So I tried to see if GPT3 could flirt. It turns out it could. A month later, I built the first version [of the platform] on a Saturday.”

Unlike Rizz and a similar app called Keys, Your Move does not yet plug into a user’s keyboard, and you must enter messages manually and it will generate a response. However, Mirakyan says a keyboard update is coming soon. Mirakyan said that he has always struggled with social interaction and reading social cues, and that he built the app for those like him who need help making digital communication seamless. “There’s such a gap currently in what people like myself want to communicate and how it comes across,” he said. “Just trying to be honest or communicate a point [can mean] not reading the room or stumbling over ourselves.”

Users across the country are embracing the app’s ability to generate responses to romantic messages. Mario Pennetti, a 24-year-old in the Daytona Beach, Fla., area who recently graduated with a degree in sports business, has been using Your Move to start conversations on Hinge and Bumble.

“Before I was like, ‘Tell me about yourself, what do you do, etc.,'” he said. “This helped me explore the personality of someone a little better. Today I used it and one of the things it said to ask was, ‘What’s your favorite dinosaur?’ It’s such a basic thing to ask but it shows personality.”

Miranda Green, a 33-year-old climate reporter in Los Angeles, said Your Move has made dating apps more enjoyable. “I think it kept me from having these monotonous sounding conversations and made things actually engaging,” she said. Green said multiple men with whom she matched complimented her conversational skills and ability to ask thoughtful questions. One even asked her out after she sent the first AI-generated message. “Wow, there’s so much to be said about that,” her match had replied.

“It kind of made me feel a little bit like an impostor, but also it kept me from just saying kind of the same thing over and over again, and clearly it worked,” she said. “I actually had a guy say to me, ‘I was trying to think of a winning thing to say to you and you beat me to the punch.'”

Green said she tweaked some suggested messages to show her own personality, but the AI brought out a side of her she usually does not show. Although she said she can often come off as sarcastic and cynical, the emoji and punctuation Your Move used in its replies highlighted her playful side, which she said is usually more likely to come out in person.

Taylor Margot, the founder of Keys AI, a tool built to help people communicate via text, said that a significant portion of Keys users employ it for dating-app conversations. He said he understands the skepticism that comes with new technology, especially when it is applied to something as personal as dating, but believes in the technology’s ability to foster deeper human connection. “It’s about teaching people to be more curious and empathetic,” he said. “It’s not about just giving people a snappy response or openers. I’m truly trying to change how people communicate and build meaningful relationships.”

None of the users The Post spoke to reported disclosing their use of AI dating tools to their matches or dates. Margot said he thinks that will change soon.

“It’s the early phase of the adoption curve of AI,” he said. “Remember when people didn’t want to share that they met on a dating app? That’s where we are now with people admitting they use AI to communicate better rather than doing it themselves. What I will call a success is when people are proud to use Keys to communicate because it means you’re working on yourself to be a better communicator.”

Some users aren’t just using AI for messaging, they’re leveraging AI tools to optimize themselves in every feature of a dating app. Dax Flame, 31, a content creator in Los Angeles, began an experiment this year to let AI run every aspect of his life while he documented the journey on YouTube.

“I used Chat GPT to help me with a bio on Tinder and message the first matches I got,” he said. “I asked for the ideal bio. Some of the aspects didn’t fit me, but it felt nice and conversational. Eventually, I asked for a more personalized version, and that one was a little bit better. I cut out the guitar strummer part because I don’t play guitar.”

Your Move also recently rolled out a feature that helps generate the perfect dating app profile.

Slate writer Heather Tal Murphy also turned to Chat GPT to land dates for a friend on the dating apps Tinder and Bumble. “ChatGPT encouraged an odd strain of forwardness that was helpful in getting the dates set up quickly,” Tal Murphy wrote.

Suman Kanuganti, the founder of Personal.ai, a service that allows you to create a personalized AI bot that can have conversations with people as you, said that he believes any future AI dating integrations must be tailored to reflect a user’s personality. “When you do offloading or are leveraging AI in the situations of dating, it has to be authentic to a particular individual,” he said.

That lack of personalization is part of what ultimately caused Lloyd, the investor, to lose faith in the AI dating tool. Throughout his experience using Rizz, the AI constructed a slew of strange and often outright false messages.

“You can imagine a world where Tinder and Hinge have all your chats and offer up the type of thing you’d say in a scenario that’s authentic to your voice,” he said. But in the meantime, “it was hilariously bad, again and again.”

Rizz was founded by four college students, Charis Zhang, 20, Oliver Johansson, 20, Tobias Worledge, 19, all sophomores at the University of California at Berkeley, and Daniel He, 20, a sophomore at the University of Southern California. “We’re all [computer science] majors who stay in our rooms all day coding. The reason we created this app is that we’re experiencing the pain of not fully knowing how to converse with people.”

Rizz went viral on TikTok and Twitter shortly after its launch and now has over 130,000 users. Zhang said that one of the biggest challenges has been trying to decipher inputs from users who aren’t used to writing proper AI prompts. This is perhaps why Rizz gave Lloyd such nonsensical answers.

In one instance, a woman presented a humorous date idea on Hinge with the phrase “Steal the Declaration of Independence.” Rizz’s AI tool generated the response, “As much as I’d like to see the Declaration of Independence, I think that’s a little excessive.”

Another woman’s profile said she knew the best spot in town for birria tacos. Rizz’s AI generated the response, “I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the birria tacos in town! It sounds like you’re really taking the time to figure out your dating goals and that’s great! I’m sure you’ll find the right person for you soon!”

Lloyd was confused. “The app was effectively breaking up with the object of my interest before we’d even chatted,” he said. “Some of the responses were so absurd that they ended up being funny, but not in the way the app likely intended.”

He said he doesn’t plan on using the app again.

“I anticipate that I’ll continue these conversations manually,” Lloyd said.