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Future Tech: 

Romance is Dead? Only Because Technology Killed It

What are your plans for this Valentines Day? Another night snuggling up with Siri in front of the TV? Or perhaps you’re building a robot to aggressively swipe right on Tinder? The options for romance in 2015 are overwhelming and often terrifying.

Admittedly, technology in dating has come along away. Matchmaking sites are now the norm, and apps like Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp have helped make long-distance relationships that little bit easier. Even so, there’s still something uneasy about letting apps and gadgets meddle in in your love life, and when they get it wrong, they tend to to get it hopelessly, disastrously wrong. Don’t believe us? Read on…

Meet your Invisible Girlfriend


Joaquin Phoenix might have fallen for his smartphone in Spike Jonze’s Herbut that’s just a movie – right? People don’t have invisible girlfriends in real-life.

Well, actually they do. The difference is that your fictional partner (there’s also an Invisible Boyfriend app) isn’t built from artificial intelligence, but instead is offered as a subscription service providing “believable social proof” of your made-up relationship in real-time. For $25 a month you can create a boyfriend or girlfriend that will swiftly text you back, helping you to dodge awkward questions from curious parents, friends and co-workers. You select a name, picture and even a backstory of how you met, and when you text your beloved you’ll get replies from a team of self-identifying “romance experts.” Whatever your situation, this can’t be the best solution.

Put Tinder on auto-pilot


Sore thumbs from swiping left and right on Tinder all day? Then one hopelessly romantic developer has got your back. Using Eigenface facial recognition, Tinderbox is a bot that does all the swiping for you based on your previous actions. Recreating the Tinder app within your browser (see above), the bot uses an algorithm to analyse the faces of Tinder users and give the digital thumbs up or thumbs down on your behalf.

Tinder is already very good at reducing its users to the sum of their physical parts, but with Tinderbox, technology has found away to strip out the remaining traces of human interaction. The bot’s developer Justin Long said he no longer uses the app as “it worked too well and started to conflict with work.” If you say so, Justin.

Creepy rebound apps


Things take a darker turn with Facebook apps like ‘On The Rebound‘, which analyses your Facebook friends to see who has recently become single. The app claims to help you ‘score a friend’ by letting you know the perfect time to ask them out – when they’re most vulnerable, in other words. Worryingly it’s not the only app of its kind, with others like Breakup Notifier and the particularly problematic Waiting Room, which sends anonymous messages to would-be sweethearts already in relationships to let them know you’re waiting for them. Flattering? Or just really, really creepy?

Carrot: ‘Dating on a stick’


Nothing says romance quite like a big old bribe. Carrot, which advertises itself as the “#1 dating app”, is a smartphone service where singles go to woo one another by dangling incentives – from flowers or dinner to a tank of gas.

Like Invisible Girlfriend, the team at Carrot describe themselves as “dating experts,” offering its users the chance to pick an opening line from hundreds of options. What variety! The app, which has been accused of being sexist and problematic, was designed by an MIT graduate who acquired “the resources to be generous” and has since found love. Presumably, by dangling a carrot on a stick.

Smartwatch hook-ups


The Apple Watch isn’t even out yet, but that hasn’t stopped developers from creating creepy bits of software for when it launches. Close Encounters is blind dating in its purest form, plotting its users as dots on a screen with no pictures or chat options to complicate matters. Once you get a match with somebody nearby, the app will reveal their real location and you simply follow the directions to hook-up for what we presume will be a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship.

Close Encounters doesn’t sound like the safest dating app you could download, but even more concerning is the language it uses – promising to pair you up with “nearby humans”.

Flirt Planet: A training camp for flirting


The idea behind Flirt Planet is simple; hone your flirting skills by seducing computer-generated cartoon girls and, when you’ve mastered that, download Flirt Planet Meet and put your new-found talents to the test. The implication here seems to be that dating is a game – like Bioshock Infinite or Alien: Isolation – and all you need to do is keep practicing so you’re good enough to win. There are even health bars for attraction and comfort levels so you can track your progress as you go.

Beware of Google Glass


Lastly, Google Glass may have recently gone back to the drawing board, but while it was around it still managed to provide a warning of our terrifying dating futures to come. With NameTag installed, Glass-wearers can use facial recognition software to scan complete strangers and pull-up social media profiles, interests and even contact information they may have shared in the public domain.

“Don’t be a stranger!” is the app’s tagline, which is funny, because even if you wanted to, NameTag makes it near-enough impossible.

Photo: Ema Woo /

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