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Dating appdates (Dec 2023): AI on AI dating, the day kink died (temporarily), Grindr’s AI wingman and more

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Feeld had a bad December 2023, with the app going down for days, leading to many unfulfilled meet-ups.

There was better dating app news from the world of AI, with the imminent launch of an app that lets AI profile avatars chat to each other until the almighty human steps in and takes over, and Grindr getting ready to unleash an AI “wingman”.

Volar stokes AI on AI dating app action

AI is being increasingly used in dating apps (such as by Grindr, as we look at later in this roundup), but new app Volar is taking things to a new level in terms of letting the computers take over.

The web app, which is set to launch soon in Austin, Texas, will create an avatar chatbot based on your profile and interests, then set it loose chatting to the AI avatars of other users of the app. You’ll be able to observe these ‘AI on AI’ conversations then choose to step in and take over ‘human’ control, if you like where they’re going.

If both ‘human’ users whose AI avatars are chatting choose to match, they can both continue the conversation for real.

It’s an interesting concept, which we could see working if you just treat the AI conversations as extensions of both your and your potential matches’ profiles. And at least the AI chatbot avatars are going to be prompt to respond, rather than ghosting each other for days.

A man is sitting at a table in a restaurant, possibly on a date.

Ben Chiang, creator of Volar, told CultureMap: “The primary problem that we have is that swiping through photos is great, right? But after you go through the swiping stage, there’s a lot of icebreaker[s] waiting. You constantly introduce yourself. And you keep doing that over and over again.”

Will Volar ever break out of Austin? Will AI chatbots be nattering to each other within a dating web app, all over the world, in a lower-fi version of the Black Mirror episode Hang the DJ? We’re swiping: “Unlikely, but let’s see”.

Broken kink: Feeld downtime causes uproar

How many planned threesomes went unfulfilled in December 2023?

At the start of the month kink and group connections-focused Feeld, which is having a bit of a mainstream moment having initially carved a niche as a more ‘adventurous’ alternative to the likes of Tinder and Bumble, launched a redesign. Unfortunately, this seemed to prompt a plethora of problems with the app, with many unable to log on to it at all for days.

Others couldn’t view their likes or access their messages properly. Despite promises from Feeld that it was working on the issues, after a few days many people reported that they were still unable to use it properly or at all.

A screenshot of the Instagram app featuring a man in a hat exploring AI-powered dating features.
Feeld’s new look (once the app started working again)

On December 7 The New York Times ran a news article entitled The Day Kink Was Turned Off, covering the blackout.

It’s testament to the sharp rise in popularity of Feeld that the downtime reached mainstream media, as well as causing a flurry of complaints on social media. Now the app seems to be working properly again, and we just hope that all those Feeld-planned group sessions have been rescheduled.

Free: not the magic number for dating apps

Is the age of free dating apps over? Some have suggested this point may be approaching, as dating apps have introduced fees for functions that used to be free over the years, and increasing amounts of people are paying for some kind of premium level on the apps.

A report by CNBC highlighted how around 35 percent of Americans who have used a dating app or site have paid to use them. Function limits to free versions of dating apps, such as Grindr limiting the amount of profiles you can view to 99 unless you pay for a subscription, have made going premium feel more like a standard choice.

Expensive dating apps and app tiers, such as The League’s VIP membership costing $2,499 a month and Tinder Select costing $499 a month, are becoming more common. They are, however, arriving at a time when dating apps are generally becoming less popular, as much of the millennial audience they were first aimed at leaves the singles pool.

The investigation also noted that the amount of adverts seen in free versions of dating apps appears to have risen, making free versions less attractive to users.

With so many people struggling in their own version of a cost of living crisis, the “Extra groceries or premium dating app?” question seems to be popping up a worrying amount (go with premium dating app though, obviously).

Grindr’s AI wingman is incoming

Grindr is set to introduce an AI “wingman” function that will help you plan dates and come up with witty responses to messages from matches.

George Arison, CEO of the LGBTQ+ dating app, said that the app will soon feature a version of the ‘flirt-bot’ created by the AI company Ex-Human, which has already made conversational and ‘talking heads’ AI chatbots. The Grindr version will be trained over time using the app’s user data.

A group of people holding a laptop with the words "browse bigger, chat faster" and Grindr's AI wingman.
Grindr’s new web homepage: will the AI wingman take his top off too?

Arison told Bloomberg [paywall]: “If we don’t do it, someone else will. If you’re not first to market with something in AI, you’re going to miss out.”

The AI “wingman”, as Arison said he was calling it, is expected to offer conversation starters, dating advice and suggestions for activities and locations for date meet-ups. Rumors that it might complete with “wingman” experience by developing the ability to nudge your shoulder and drunkenly say “Just go and talk to them, you wuss!” repeatedly are unconfirmed.

Dating app for people with intellectual disabilities launched in Spain

A dating app claiming to be the first of its kind designed for people with intellectual disabilities has launched.

The free-to-use Dinder Club app, launched in Spain in with the help of the Dincat support organization, says it wants to facilitate friendships or affective relationships between people with intellectual disabilities. The company says: “We want [the] same opportunities and rights for people with intellectual disabilities” when it comes to safe relationships.

The app works like most swipe-based dating apps, but focused on shared interests you have with potential matches. To make sure the app is used by those it is directed at, you have to be a member of a social entity to register to use it.

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