Could wearable tech make online dating a more physical experience?

Once app thinks so

Right now, we use wearable tech with built in heart rate monitors primarily as a way to track our fitness with more depth, quantifying our exertion as well as the steps we take. But could heart rate tracking features be used in other areas of our lives? Dating app Once seems to think so.

As far as modern dating apps go, Once is already a little different. Rather than inundating its users with endless profiles to swipe through, based on algorithms and location, Once presents you with one match a day who has been selected by actual human matchmakers. It’s a bit of a throwback to the days before dating apps and online services, when you could visit a matchmaker who was trained to find you someone based on an understanding of yours and their personality and preferences. Every 24 hours the app presents you with a new match for the day based on criteria like interests, proximity, physical, and personal preferences. If you both decide that you like one another you can begin messaging.

Now, Once want to do something different again and integrate wearable tech into their service. If you have a Fitbit or an Android wearable, the app will be able to connect to it and begin to measure your heartbeat as soon as you look at the profile that’s been picked out for you that day.

The video says the point of the feature is that “if your heart races then we can suggest people of similar physical and social attributes because your heart cannot lie”, essentially using your physical reactions as well as whether or not you click the ‘like’ button to determine which kinds of people you find most attractive for future matches. Though it should be noted, you don’t need a wearable to use the app, it’s just an added feature.

The part of me that can think of nothing better than drowning in heart-shaped confetti absolutely loves this idea. It’s true that when we meet someone to whom we feel an attraction our heart might speed up a little, our palms might sweat, and we might begin to internally lambast ourselves for all of our imperfections that have only been highlighted by the glow of the inhuman creature before us, clearly sent to earth to make us feel bad about ourselves. Yeah. It’s something like that.

But there’s another part of me that thinks it’s nothing more than a gimmick. Nice, but a gimmick. There are a few devices out there which integrate the romance of the heartbeat without actually having a useful function like the Once app intends, for example the Apple Watch allows you to use the Digital Touch feature to send the feeling of your heartbeat to someone else, but I’m still hesisant.

It’s not so much the idea that’s limits this to being a gimmick; although a racing heart must be one of the most cliched descriptors of attraction out there, it is based in fact. I think Once could actually be onto something interesting by incorporating tech into making the experience of online dating slightly more physical and perhaps more meaningful. I actually worry the limitation lies in the wearables. Though wrist-mounted wearables are great for tracking your heart rate during strenuous exercise, I wonder if they’re really sensitive or consistently accurate enough to accurately pick up the slight elevation in heart rate that comes from seeing the photo of someone you quite fancy but haven’t met. If a stranger’s image alone is enough to make my heart behave like I’m doing a short sprint I don’t know if I’d want to meet them for health reasons.

That said, it’s nice to see a modern dating app taking a slightly different approach, and if it does work we’d be interested to see how wearable tech could be further interestingly integrated into the online dating experience.

Once is available to download on iOS and Android in the UK now.