Early this week, the bedraggled, depressed dating world was gifted with Nicole He's True Love Tinder Robot. Typically, "true love" and "Tinder" aren't phrases used in the same sentence, so naturally we were curious.
He is a grad student at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program who created the romantically-inclined machine for her final project in her Intro to Physical Computing and Intro to Computational Media classes. The robotic arm functions through a pad on which you place your hands. The sensors in the pad then detect your biological response based on the photos that turn up with each swipe. If your palms become sweaty—indicating an excited or aroused state—the arm will swipe right. If you seem pretty "eh," it'll swipe left. Ta-da!
The idea here is that the TLTR channels an honest physiological response to the women turning up in your feed and therefore leads to better matches, followed by imminent true love (it's totally that easy, right?). We were intrigued, but we had a few questions, so we tapped the inventor herself:
Why do you think the world needs your True Love Tinder Robot?
Everyone that uses dating sites and apps like OkCupid or Tinder is already trusting computers to find them romantic partners. My robot is just a physical manifestation of the same idea — that a computer knows you well enough to set you up with people better than you can yourself.
Is galvanic skin response (sweaty palms) the only element the sensors measure?
If I am unusually sweaty, do you think I’d have skewed results?
No. The way it works is that it measures the change in sweatiness over time as you are looking at each profile, so it doesn't matter if you are especially sweaty to begin with.
What if I saw a relative or teacher come up and I got really nervous and therefore very sweaty? Would the robot still swipe right?
When I’m asked for Tinder advice, I always tell people to read the bios to get a more honest idea of if they’d be attracted to a potential match. Does this person say “u” instead of “you”? Do they list their interests as “piña coladas and getting caught in the rain”? Basically, I tell people to try not to think with just their junk. Do you think your robot might aid that superficial response, based solely on pure hotness, and not intellectual compatibility?
I agree that intellectual compatibility is important. But so is knowing your true heart's desire when you first look at someone. My robot just sets you up for a match — it's up to you to figure out the rest.
Do you think one day we’ll ever see the True Love Tinder Robot for sale?
Probably not! Unless someone wants to give me a lot of money.
How else do you think this technology could be applied?
I think it's already being applied, it's just usually packaged in a less overtly creepy way. We're already wearing Fitbits and Apple Watches that do things that are not too dissimilar from this.
What’s next for you?
I'm planning on making more fun and weird stuff with code. Next summer, in between my first and second year of grad school, I'll be doing a programming internship at the New York Times. I hope to make more robots, both physical and digital.
If you'd like to see this thing in action, you can check out NYU's ITP Winter Show on December 20th and 21st. Until then, we'll be posted up here dreaming about the next "fun and weird stuff" she'll be making with code.