A dating startup called OutChat has become the first company to build a matchmaking bot for Facebook Messenger.
Facebook announced its new chatbot platform at F8 in April, and since then there have been over 11,000 bots built for its Messenger service.
As Facebook’s David Marcus said at the time: “Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.”
And the founders of OutChat – a standalone dating app previously called Jeltee – have claimed to be the first to release a dating bot for the Facebook platform when they launched their bot on 12th June.
The OutChat matchmaking bot lets users create a profile and connect with nearby singles all within Facebook Messenger, without having to install the OutChat app.
To use the dating service, singles simply start chatting to the bot in Facebook Messenger on desktop or mobile, and the bot will ask them a series of simple questions, about their age and location, to help them set up their profile.
The bot then starts showing users nearby singles, which they choose to “like” or “pass”, and if both mutually like one another, they can chat together within Facebook Messenger.
The chat is limited to 24 hours, however, after which the conversation deletes – a feature designed to make singles go out on offline dates, instead of “chatting endlessly online”.
Speaking about the benefits of using chatbots for online dating, OutChat co-founder Mikayel Khachatryan said: “One of the greatest advantages of OutChat bot is that you no longer need to install an app.
“The fact that an average smartphone owner uses only five apps shows that installing new apps and signing up on them is no longer convenient.
“In addition, our existing database and resources are interconnected in a way that the app users and bot users can interact with each other.”
Jeltee, which became OutChat, was first built by two students from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, Rafael Harutyunyan and Ashot Mnatsakanyan, and launched on Android and iOS in Dubai in February 2015.
The team told GDI it started developing the OutChat bot immediately after Facebook’s announcement about Messenger chatbots at F8, intrigued about the potential of using chatbots for dating.
Asked why the tech interested them so much, Mnatsakanyan said: “The most exciting thing about bots is that they make the user experience more interactive and diverse. Instead of tapping on buttons on a limited user interface, users can talk to an AI-based bot and have a unique experience based on their preferences and personal interests.
And although European dating giant Meetic released a dating bot for Facebook Messenger earlier this month, OutChat believes it was the first to create a location-based matchmaking bot for the platform when the startup launched its bot on 12th June.
Over the coming months, the team is looking to grow the chatbot platform in California, focusing on its target demographic of singles between 20 and 35, as well as continuing to refine and hone the young product with user feedback.
It is also planning a monetisation strategy based around added services that would include additional chat time, the ability to send “crushes” to matches, along with looking into partnering with local venues to offer nearby date suggestions to its users.
Speaking about the startup’s plans for the rest of the year , Mnatsakanyan said: “For the next few months, the key priority for us is to understand user behaviour on the new platform. It is an entirely different interface and time is needed to figure out the way people want to use the OutChat bot.
“As there are more users and therefore more data, OutChat is going to get smarter more precise and subtle. As the time goes on, it will understand more of what you are looking for and provide greater value.”