One of the unsung applications of artificial intelligence is how it can help in the accessibility arena. While there are legitimate questions being asked of AI right now, there also is predictably little analysis from the mainstream tech commentariat on how this ever-burgeoning technology benefits the disability community. Ethics and dangers are obvious concerns, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that AI has the potential to do profound good beyond pithy conversation with some chatbot.
So it goes with the date-planning app DUO. The app, available on iOS and Android, boasts itself as “dates unlike others.” After downloading the app, a person takes a brief quiz which, according to the company’s website, asks users to “submit your unique interests and a date planning expert will organize an incredible experience.” There are so-called “surprise” dates, as well as group dates too. The idea here is DUO is leveraging the power of technology to help alleviate the stress associated with planning a date with someone. Dating already is stressful enough.
Along these lines, DUO recently introduced a new feature to the software called Al-Powered Dates. Available worldwide now, Al-Powered Dates is a feature whereby users can lean on AI in order to more easily schedule dates. In essence, the feature builds on the what aspect of dating (the activities) by providing a mechanism for scheduling the commensurate when part of the deal. This can prove especially handy during the busy holiday season when everyone’s calendars are crammed with events.
In a short interview conducted via email, DUO co-founder Arie Luyendyk told me the Al-Powered Dates was conceived with the primary goal of “[enhancing] the user experience by offering personalized date suggestions based on individual interests,” adding that the tool benefits users because, alluding to what I wrote earlier, it provides “unique and tailored date ideas without the hassle of searching the internet.”
Luyendyk told me the impetus for Al-Powered Dates was feedback from users. He said the team heard a lot from people asking why not simply use a conventional search engine for planning dates. The answer, Luyendyk told me, is simple. The team wanted to “go beyond generic suggestions and provide a more personalized touch,” he said.
Like most things technological, this feature is being billed as something for convenience; the truth is, however, its impact can be far greater in terms of accessibility. Although Luyendyk didn’t expressly say so, what DUO essentially tries to do for people is make the dating process—i.e., actually spending time together—more accessible by lessening the amount of cognitive load required. Particularly for someone with certain cognitive conditions, it can prove tremendously difficult to, as Luyendyk noted, scour Google to plan dates and then schedule time for them. Likewise, the experience of traversing Google for information can also be difficult in terms of visual and/or fine-motor skills due to all the clicking and tapping and reading. All told, what seemingly are implementation details suddenly become part of the dating experience itself; dates don’t magically appear out of thin air, after all. The bottom line is disabled people go on dates too, and these considerations aren’t at all trivial.
As to DUO’s future, Luyendyk said it’s about being better.
“Looking ahead, the hope is this functionality will continue to evolve, with improvements in both the AI’s ability to curate dates and the overall user experience,” he said of DUO’s future growth. “As technology advances, we aim to stay on the cutting edge of date planning, making it even easier for users to create memorable experiences.”