Way back when, in another time called 1998, Wired published a story about a Bluetooth-enabled device called the Lovegety that was a pioneer in the location-based dating scene. Made by the same company that created the classic Tamagotchi toy, the Lovegety had three separate modes that a user could choose from depending on what they were looking for from the opposite sex. The device would then search for other Lovegety’s within a five meter radius that were using the same mode.
Things have come a long way since then. MIT has comprehensively studied location-based dating, though in different terms: reality mining. In fact, co-founder of Sense Networks, Alex Pentland is the senior faculty member with the project and it looks like he transfers much of the project knowledge to the data-crunching Macrosense platform we’ve talked about before. The iPhone has spawned a mobile revolution that has resulted in LBS dating service Skout, and today two new location-based dating iPhone apps: Match.com and Are You Interested.
Match.com is already an established presence on the web with a 15 million user strong member base. The free application lets users edit their profiles, upload pictures, and has an opt-in location feature so other singles can see you, or vice versa. MatchMobile has actually been available for a variety of mobile phones since 2007, though the service only sends a text message to a member if they’ve received an email on Match.
Are You Interested is actually an iPhone modification of the same application available on Facebook. Built by SNAP Interactive, Are You Interested has 12 million active users monthly on Facebook, so like Match it’ll have a substantial chance at converting its success to mobile. The iPhone app finds your location and lets you browse pictures of other singles in your area and rate them, as well as contact someone with winks or private messages. Right now the application is free to download, but it’s possible it may cost a small amount in the future.
With the amount of discussion surrounding privacy currently, location-based dating apps will draw some negative attention, especially as they become more popular. But the fact is that all these services are explicitly opt-in. A user is able to very easily choose not to share their location if the creep factor is still a safety concern.
But over time location-based dating will become a serious business, spawning millionaires the same way online dating platforms have. Apps like the recently announced Foursquare have began to really incorporate social interactivity into their location-based applications more than we’ve seen in the past year. And as users of LBS apps become more comfortable with using those apps to actually connect with real people in the real world–possibly those they’ve never met–society will become more comfortable with location-based dating.