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The Blind Date Club turns your Echo speaker into a matchmaker

TechCrunch TechCrunch 8/05/2016 Sarah Perez

Can Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa serve as a matchmaker? That’s the idea behind The Blind Date Club, a project from a team of coders presenting today at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 Hackathon. Designed as a voice-activated app for the Echo speaker, The Blind Date Club lets you search for dating profiles by voice, have them read aloud to you, and then get connected with your matches, also by voice. Yes, it’s sort of like an Alexa-powered Tinder.

The idea for the app comes from a group of friends who live and work in New York at companies including General Assembly, RentHop, and Condé Nast: C. Spencer Beggs, Adi Hanash, Theresa Lau, Isaac Torres and Shane Leese.

Due to Wi-Fi issues, Hanash chose to describe their hack onstage instead of demonstrating it, but we got a chance to check it out backstage.

To use The Blind Date Club, you begin by simply asking Alexa to find you a date. You can also specify a gender by saying, “Alexa, find me a woman (or man).”

Like Tinder, the app then returns a somewhat randomized match based on geo-location. But instead of swiping based on the person’s looks, the app reads you that person’s profile and details your common interests.

In theory, these dating profiles would also be created by voice with users answering a series of questions posed by Alexa. However, for time’s sake, the Blind Date Club used dummy profiles to showcase how the technology works.

If you like a match and want to be connected, you can confirm your interest by voice. If that person also matches with you, then you’re able to continue to interact with them. In a future build, this could even include sending each other voice files.

The “blind date” part comes from the fact that you are matching first based on profile data, not photos. Users would first have to interact a few times before photos were unlocked, or before being provided a virtual phone number which they could call or text. (To be clear, these features are not available in the project as it was demoed today, but are ideas the team had in mind.)

For those interested in the technical details, the application is an Alexa skill written in Node.js, and served from a custom HTTPS endpoint using .club TLD. The API is an Express app hosted on an AWS EC2 server instance with continuous integration provided by Drone. The API is defined in Swagger.

This was the first time anyone on the team had developed for Alexa, we’re told.

As the team explains, The Blind Date Club creates a social interaction component to Alexa.

That’s an interesting idea, given how popular the Echo speaker has become and how it’s finding a way into the lives of more mainstream users. But despite being accessed daily for things like news, weather, traffic, music, podcasts, and other functions, we haven’t seen many attempts at building a social experience on top of the platform.

The Blind Date Club could change that as it would create a social user base that connects over Echo by voice, not via text and photos and on the web and mobile.

The team doesn’t know yet if they’ll continue to work on the app after the hackathon, however. But they’re now excited to build for Alexa in the future.

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