Surreal videos show event that led to the creation of four new couples, and might be a surprisingly good fit for Japanese society.

There’s a bit of a contradiction to the concept of a speed-dating party. Obviously, the draw is the opportunity to meet a large number of potential romantic partners in a short amount of time. However, a lot of times people who’re having trouble meeting someone aren’t necessarily the most experienced or confident in talking to new people.

So a recent speed-dating party in Tokyo decided to have assistants on-hand to help keep the conversations flowing smoothly. However, it wasn’t human staff members who were assisting, but robots.

▼ This being Japan, naturally the robots were cute.

Sitting on the table in front of each pair was a corresponding pair of talking robots, developed by Japanese media company Cyber Agent and technology manufacturer Sharp. The robotic cupids had been pre-loaded with the human participants’ profiles, developed through a 45-question survey they completed prior to the event. The robots worked in tandem, asking questions, responding, and chatting while their human counterparts sat back and listened in silence.

In the video below, for example, the man’s robot asks what sort of hobbies Mari, the woman sitting next to him, enjoys. “She recently started taking piano lessons,” Mari’s machine answers.

Each robot-to-robot chat took about three minutes, and participants had the option (decided on beforehand) of whether they wanted to talk human-to-human afterwards or not. At the end of the event four new couples had been formed from the 28 participants, many of whom had high praise for their robo-helpers.

“The person didn’t seem like my usual type, but as our robots talked, I was able to see that we have many things in common, so I’d like to go on a date next time,” said one attendee. Multiple participants also said that by removing the need for them to personally form responses, they were better able to focus on listening and learning about the other person, rather than feeling pressure to constantly be thinking of a witty reply in the back of their minds.

Another major advantage is that the robots eliminated the need for the participants to directly say anything about themselves. It can be awkward enough for some people to walk the tightrope between revealing your attractive and alluring qualities without sounding like you’re bragging or uninterested in hearing about anyone else. The robot assistants, however, perhaps because of their automated nature, were easily forgiven for talking up the people they were represented. After all, it’s not really bragging if it’s a robot saying what a great catch you’d be, right?

Especially in Japanese society, where humility is always considered a virtue and people are always conscious of the fact that the things they love might be seen as dull and pointless by others, many singles are reluctant to self-promote themselves, and having a robotic wingman was likely a great help. Of course, the real test will come later, when the interested couples that met at the party take the technological training wheels off and have to communicate entirely directly on their first date. Oh, and if you’re of the mindset that initial romantic overtures should always be made by carbon-based lifeforms, but are too shy to do so yourself, Japan has a service to help with that too.

Sources: Cyber Agent, Robot Matching Party
Top image: Cyber Agent
Insert images: Cyber Agent, Robot Matching Party
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