Match is launching the “first dating bot” for Facebook Messenger in the UK – named Lara — which follows on its singles cafe pop-up in London earlier this year. Always looking for ways to innovate and create love connection, the chatbot is programmed to help those looking for a partner create a profile on the dating site (and make love connections) without leaving Facebook’s walls.
Launched in France as its first test market last year, the Lara can analyze up to 50 categories of user profile criteria such as astrological signs, imperfections—the focus of a 2016 campaign—and hobbies in order to make suggestions for matches based on hard, cold data.
The Lara bot uses natural language processing in interacting with users in a “seamless” manner according to Match.com, and the brand is planning a Europe-wide rollout this year.
“With Messenger being used by over one billion people worldwide and now a big part of people’s everyday lives, developing the first dating bot has been a priority for us to make finding a date easier for singles wherever they are,” Abbie Oguntade, VP of Match’s Northern European Hub, told The Drum.
Oguntade added, “As European leader, we’re always looking to find new and convenient ways for people to meet; whether that’s through the mobile app, our events programme or now, Lara.”
Meetic, the European division of Match.com, launched Lara in France last year and that success led to the current expansion.
How it works: Once a Facebook user’s Match.com profile has been set up, the virtual dating assistant recommends potential matches by a profile image and basic information in the Messenger chat chain with a link to each candidate’s profile. Users can choose to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to let Lara know if they’re interested.
Chatbots are proliferating as AI tech digs deeper in understanding context and interacting with humans in a more conversational and natural way.
Facebook introduced chatbots to Messenger last year, starting with retailers, restaurant chains and service providers, greasing the skids for them to sell products to customers. Facebook’s API is open-source so anyone can create a chatbot for their platform and Facebook has updated the service to use less text speak and more clickable menus.
In the UK, Match joins other branded Facebook Messenger bots including Pizza Express, Vogue magazine and 50 Shades of Grey character Christian Grey. Facebook already counts more than 100,000 Messenger chat apps at the ready for consumer use.
At F8 last week in San Jose, David Marcus, head of Messenger, said “We’re the de facto white pages of messaging apps,” citing 1.2 billion people currently using it monthly. “We have a shot of becoming the Yellow Pages of messaging apps.”
Marcus likened the app to a “playground” for Facebook. As CNET reported from F8, “Marcus said the idea behind all the new features is that Messenger is kind of like a social living room, where you hang out, play games, eat and talk to friends. A living room that Facebook never wants you to leave.”