Move over Facebook and Myspace. Make room online and telephone dating services. There’s something new brewing inside the engineering labs at Ryerson University that could throw a curveball into how we connect with others.
Soon we may be able to find out if that grocery store hottie or handsome subway rider is single before even uttering a word to them.
PhD candidate Hossein Rahnama is working on software similar to the principles of online networking sites like Facebook. The difference is Rahnama’s software is just for your cellphone and matches people in real time who are in the same vicinity as you. Confused? So was I until I saw the software in use.
“The goal is to interact with people around you for free,” says Rahnama.
Once a user has set up their profile on their phone — listing such things as their sex, age and hobbies — the profile is activated within a 15-metre radius around the person, and is automatically searched using Bluetooth technology and a mathematical algorithm to find other people who match with the user’s profile. The software will not, however, let you know exactly where the other person is located.
Once the user has reviewed potential matches in the 15-metre radius (Rahnama’s team hopes to increase that to 100 metres), he or she can try to initiate a live chat. A token is then sent to the match and that person can either accept or decline a live text-messaging chat. Where they take it from there is up to them.
Rahnama has been working on the project since 2003 and the product is finally at the stage where all he needs is an industry partner to bring the concept into the real world. He and his team are talking to a dating service and theoretically if all goes well the product could be on the market by the end of the summer.
Rahnama believes a product like this can really help social interaction.
“Think about shyness,” says Rahnama. “This helps people to overcome that because the software (creates that initial link).”
And he’s right, a product like this can certainly help bring the shy among us out of hiding and even bring the not-so-shy forward to avoid those missed connections with people as we wander the city, head down, consumed by our own lives. But I just hope it doesn’t turn us further into a BlackBerry-addicted, cellphone-obsessed world because seeing a real flirtatious smile is always better than a computer-generated one.