High Frequency Dating


The other day I realized there was something missing in my life, so I set out to find a solution. Online dating is in vogue, which makes sense. The internet already has no small part in satisfying most of my other needs. I was pleased to learn that the latest popular dating app, Tinder, now has an Android client. Besides forcing me to reactivate my Facebook account it seems simple enough. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that this was going to turn in to a massive time sink. Perhaps, I thought, I could optimize it?

I did some simple man in the middle packet sniffing to reverse engineer the Tinder API. It’s pretty simple. Send your location, grab a handful of images and user ids, and tell the server which ones you liked. I wrote a minimal python client in Ubuntu and began designing an algorithm to speed up the process a bit. The algorithm first segments the main image by finding all of the faces via OpenCV. If none are found the candidate is discarded. If multiple faces are found the end score will be the average of all of them. This seems to work since people tend to associate with those of similar levels of attractiveness. Facial attractiveness is surprisingly uncomplicated to quantify. Essentially, evolution has us seeking partners that are as “normal” as possible. Anything that is unusually big or small, any ratio that differs from [latex]\phi[/latex], or about 1.618, hurts the score. After the face(s) are identified in the image, a mask of 25 anthropometric proportion indices is overlaid and mean compliance is measured. This is also done with a custom OpenCV routine.


The client also has messaging capabilities. After a match is identified the algorithm sends a simple message “Can I have a dance?” inspired by Mos Def’s success with Ms. Fat Booty. If no response is received the candidate is discarded. If any response is received, it is ignored and a follow up message is sent “Haha okay then how about we go to a fancy seafood restaurant?”, inspired by the classic meat-for-sex exchange that is common in the animal kingdom as well as among humans. The client uses NLTK to judge an affirmative or negative response. From here an Odesk virtual assistant coordinates dates. This also handles rescheduling but conflicts are not an issue as you will soon see.

Come date night a Double Robot loaded with over 10 hours of pre-recorded content of me rolls up to a restaurant automatically chosen from Yelp based on reviews, distance, cost, and whether or not another double of me has a date there at the time (awkward). Reservations are made via OpenTable’s API. Everything from witty, non-offensive stories to mildly embarrassing personal traits to compliments are recorded. According to the logs candidates are often taken aback at a robot showing up, but a sincere recording complimenting their shoes immediately puts them at ease. Mostly, though, it asks questions and listens. The algorithm aims for a 4:1 ratio of listening to presenting. Based on tone of voice computed by DSP, the system knows which topics to go deeper on and which to avoid, organized in a tree structure in memory. If things are going poorly the emergency “tell me about your cat” routine is run and the microphone is muted to prevent the Speech to Text processor from running useless cycles.



The check is paid via E La Carte and a car is called with Uber’s API. If the algorithm has not been meeting its heuristics the candidate is driven home and the robot self-destructs after uploading its data to the cloud so future iterations can learn from its mistakes. If it has been going well an AirBnB room is insta-booked and the Uber drives there. Once in the room a music playlist is algorithmically generated with Spotify and the candidate’s musical taste gleaned from their Facebook likes. At this moment an Instacart driver should be arriving with a $10 bottle of wine and fresh strawberries and an Exec delivers a NeuroSky Mindwave 3 and a Vibease Smart Vibrator.


Both devices connect to the Double’s iPad via Bluetooth wirelessly and to the female directly. The female’s brainwaves are fed in to a Learning Vector Quantization Artificial Neural Network (FABIO). At first FABIO adjusts the parameters of the Vibease mostly at random, but partially based on previous experience. Based on feedback generated by the headset the system learns and adaptively adjusts the output parameters in order to maximize EEG amplitude. Unfortunately, the complex mathematical operations required by FABIO typically exhaust the Double’s battery in around 01:57-02:03 minutes, depending on the female. At this point the Double gruffly requests the female retrieve his charger. The robot records the candidate’s experience with a Go Pro 3 and securely uploads the video to a private Amazon S3 bucket.

At 09:07 in the morning an Uber is automatically called for the female and 3 days later she will receive a heartfelt e-card / receipt. The algorithm will also wish her happy birthday on Facebook and like the top 20% of her Instagram photos as they are posted and start getting a lot of other likes. This continues until her Facebook relationship status switches away from single.


Ahhh modern romance. Turing would be proud. Unfortunately I haven’t found the time to watch any of the videos since I’m too busy optimizing the algorithm.

  • Evan Jones

    I guess I see what’s supposed to be funny here, Rob, but I don’t think everyone will. As the man behind an awfully high-profile startup, I don’t think this is likely to attract any beneficial attention to you, and may very well attract some negative attention. Even if this is meant in good fun, I’m not sure it’s in your best interests.

    • As a Tinder user (scored one date recently, yay!) and techie, it’s hilarious. It’s also top of the front page of Hacker News right now, so he is getting 10k+ views from a very targeted community, including a lot of investors. It had to get a lot of votes from the same to get where it is.

    • EasTexan

      Oh my goodness, ease up, Evan. Rob is not only a clever young electrical engineer and entrepreneur, but with this article, shows that even a polymath can have a great sense of humor and write brilliant satire.

      • Evan Jones

        I didn’t have a big problem problem with the piece, but I was concerned that it might provoke some negative reactions that might get in the way of Rob’s other work. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, so it looks like you’re right. Good news.

        • Catherine

          Honestly as a woman who works in tech, I think this piece showcases everything that wrong and fucked up with the industry and why women feel unwelcome. Yes, optimizing is awesome. I work at a company where optimization is our primary focus and I am as obsessed with algorithmic efficiency as the next person. But is this really the best way to talk about it? Great, this is just satire written by one 25 yo engineer for other 25 yo engineers, you might say. But couldn’t you use your amazing ability to be funny in a way that doesn’t objectify 50 percent of the human race?

          • Evan Jones

            I feel you, sister. This article, and the responses I got to my awfully mild objection, have illustrated to me how unwelcoming the industry can feel more clearly than all the stories female friends have told me over the years. I’m a little ashamed to admit that, but at least I’m learning.

          • Rob Johnson

            It is because of people like you that women continue to struggle to be taken seriously in no-nonsense fields like tech. You take a satire about how technology is increasingly isolating people from the human experience and suddenly manage to turn it into a victimhood diatribe. Stop trying to make this about you. Its not. If anything, the fact that the man is the one replaced by various robots and technology would suggest that men are the ones being objectified, not women, as it is men in this story that can be apparently so easily replaced/disposed of. Of course this clear interpretation of the story does not jive with your need to invent “issues” and things to be offended by, so you just ignore it.

          • Catherine

            I don’t think I am inventing an issue here. And you’re being a dick.

          • Revan

            Hate to say it Catherine, but you just got shut the fuck down. Let this be a lesson that crying about social justice on the internet will get you nowhere in life.

          • Kat

            Honestly, as another woman who works in tech, I think this post is a hilarious piece of social and cultural satire. I won’t go so far as to say that your personal objection is wrong, Catherine, but at the same time I think it’s overreactions to a harmless humor piece like this that actually hurt women working in the tech industry (and any other field, for that matter). This isn’t a dissertation-level examination of gender roles in contemporary society, after all; it’s a funny take on online dating. Context is important.

          • aaronmhamilton

            Why can’t a man write satire about the emotional content of modern dating? Are men no longer allowed to hold male perspectives?

            This is a satire of a reality: it really feels this way, and it bothers men just as much as it should.

            Dating now starts with objective analysis of potential partners, from a distance, in the privacy of one’s own home, at which point you might as well be sending out telepresence systems equipped with self pleasure equipment and brain activity monitors, because that’s what women seem to have asked for: clean, easy, faultless automaton men that know how to fuck, and can pay for their food, shelter, and entertainment.

            For myself at least, and I imagine most men, this is not a wet dream but a nightmare.

            Of course, you come into every uncomfortable social situation already knowing who the victim is, so how could you ever be wrong?

    • Chris Grigg

      He managed to write a piece of satire that makes more than a few important statements, such as the preference for technical solutions instead of more appropriate human solutions, work/life balance, and the misogyny present in the idea that women can be controlled by algorithms. I’d say this can do nothing but good things.

      • aaronmhamilton

        The women are in complete control of this, however. Women choose the terms of acceptance in online dating. If anyone is being controlled in this situation, it’s men.

        Also, I think you’re misusing the very strong term “misogyny” to describe something which is clearly not misogyny: The structure of online dating in no way reflects a hatred of women, conversely the services exist almost entirely to serve the needs of women, as evidenced by the fact that they choose to promote themselves on the sites, and have the complete freedom to refuse contact, or remove their profiles completely if they’re unsatisfied.

        If something hateful were happening to women on online dating sites, I hope you have the modicum of respect for women it would take to understand that they are just as capable of acting in their own interests as anyone, and they don’t need you going around acting as though they’re too dumb to walk away from a bad deal.

        Women are agents, and you show vast disrespect in saying they’re not capable of acting in their own interests when given the opportunity.

    • Brian Ascani

      Why would this get in the way of his other work? This piece is brilliant and could quite possibly be the future.

      • Evan Jones

        Well, there are a number of things in this article that might make women uncomfortable:

        — Women are worth dating iff their faces (or their friends’ faces) match a certain profile.

        — In case of conversation lull, ask about cats and ignore the response.

        — The general idea that women are a commodity to be optimized into bed.

        I think Rob intended this in good fun, and it’s been received that way so far. To that extent, maybe I’m overreacting. If I were a woman looking to invest in or work for Rosa Labs though, do you think it’s possible I might feel differently? That was my concern.

        • Steve Crozier

          Dude, look up “satire.”

          • Vael Victus

            At the same time, what he’s saying has some truth to it. I don’t think it’d happen on this article, but with a few inappropriate sentences, you could get a zealous group of anti-misogynists posting hateful comments. Happens almost daily, check out marvel’s “draw harley quinn in a bath tub”.

        • Brian Ascani

          I understand where you’re coming from and I appreciate it, it seems as though you’re just making a general statement of concern so I will give you that. However, if we are not put into uncomfortable situations than we will never grow, life would be rather dull. To your first point, if they get uncomfortable with that then they are ignoring basic biological/evolutionary mechanisms to find and select for the best mate for the further survival of the species. Also, they would be hypocrites because they do the same thing, for example, thats why we have preferences as males and females, lust first, then love. The third and second point I’m not really going to go into to avoid any backlash but women do the same thing considering male and female brain circuitry, which is unfair in a sense really but understandable.

          I suppose I would say yes it would but then again Im not a girl. To me, this shows that he can take what he knows and make it funny, admirable, it takes a smart man to do that, oddly enough what women are looking for. :p But again, I’m not a girl and other than this article, I dont know Rob.

          • Evan Jones

            Thanks for the polite response, Brian. From the reaction this article’s gotten, it’s clear that Rob has a much better sense of his demographic’s attitudes than I do. I was concerned he might get raked over the gender politics coals for the sake of a joke, but that has proved unfounded. So… good on ‘im.

        • Brian Ascani

          Actually, I should also add that technically we are machines. Every reaction we have is only because of a stimulus, even feelings. Butterflies in your stomach? Wonder who you thought of to get ’em.

          • Barium

            You all say it is satire, well maybe it is. I’m not the best at nuance, and this article made me profoundly uncomfortable. Tell me, what are women (like me) who are bothered by this article supposed to change? True satire is supposed to invite reflection and change.

          • kiyote

            I would say that this article doesn’t expect women to change anything.

            As a comedian, I think this article was a piece of Juvenalian satire, but not about women, and rather the nerdy programmer by taking his coding optimization traits and overlaying it on finding a girlfriend. In the sketch writing world, this technique is called “mapping.”

            I think that the problem that some people have is that he starts reasonable (or, at least, only mildly unreasonable), and then starts building it up to ridiculous (personally, I think that it hits that point at the robot taking the girl out, because I can actually see a lonely coder writing that facial analysis software). The dangerous part is, people can miss that satire exit ramp and think that the author is being serious the whole way through. Remember, a lot of people thought that Jonathan Swift was really advocating the English to eat the Irish for a while, too.

            So, what change does this invite? Probably for the programmer to stop trying to use technology to “solve” relationships.

    • Dirk

      Looks like the only negative attention it’s getting is from you. Maybe you should re-evaluate your life…

  • brianshmrian

    This is pretty funny! I think it works especially well because of your image as a high tech low tech problem solver. I appreciate that you can have some fun with the subject.

  • Funny, but I bet you’ll be doing your dating late in your sixties with the time it’ll take you to dev all that. Unless you outsource development too. In which case, you’ll be long dead.

    • Andre Brutus

      Here’s a diagram for ya

  • Guest

    This is hilarious and make me sad at the same time. You should write more fiction.

  • Elanorigby

    This is hilarious and makes me sad at the same time. You should write more fiction.

  • T J K

    I’m crying right now.

    • Guest

      I love posts that seem serious at a superficial glance and get more and more hilarious the longer you read. The irony of it coming from you, and the social commentary hidden within make it even better.

  • DeS

    I love posts that seem serious at a superficial glance and get more and more hilarious the longer you read. The irony of it coming from you, and the social commentary hidden within make it even better. Just the right thing to read while waking up.

  • Andreas Pousette

    Love it! But surely it would be easier to just go full mechanical turk and cardboard cutout. #staylean

  • i would have lol’d if rob weren’t such a beta “transhumanist” herbling in real life

    • Will Sinks

      What’s an herbling?

  • EasTexan

    Brilliant, Rob. Jeesh, Turing, Fibonacci ratios, and 6/10 rated intercourse…man, it just doesn’t get any better than this!

  • Pedro Daltro

    fucking awesome!!

  • Gary Kaliware

    Golden Ratio, OpenCV, Mos’Def: AWESOME. The kicker is booking AirBNB and Uber. What if the date doesn’t go well, do you have a recorded message that tells her to “Kick Rocks” 😉

  • Benjamin Lake Hamilton

    I have no doubt that would be effective, but the goal is something you can’t replace with an algorithm.

  • josep2

    Everything about this is genius.

  • Tracey Ryniec

    dildo drill

  • excellence

    this is great! perhaps for a sequel, everyone, not just the men, send surrogates in their place to run simulations against each other. but if its 2 robots talking to each other, they don’t even need to physically be there. All you’d have to do is complete your profile and come back in an hour to see the results of your simulations, with the top 3 grouped by geographic proximity.
    this sounds like something the NSA could do if they’re not already, not just for dating but running character analysis on people to determine anything. To pick a president, or pick the perfect girl to get caught in a ‘scandal’ with the President, taxes, or knowing what any person likes so you can keep them distracted with meaningless content while you do world-changing work… but this is just an idea, more to come later

  • Lol! Oh. My. God.

  • ThomBrooks
  • Patches

    And I’m really well read. Like, Wodehouse, Voltaire, Fielding… etc etc.

  • The Illiterate


  • JordanHusney

    Might I suggest the following additional pro move: rather than a heartfelt e-card why not send a handwritten note from either Bond (http://www.bondgifts.com/) or Felt (http://feltapp.com/). It’s a crazy world we’re living in.

  • Alex Brown

    This is why everyone needs to get on Cheek’d! It’s the real life daing site! http://cheekd.com. You get to pick who you want to date in person— like in the real world. Bizarre, right?!?!? : 0

  • Losing Dates

    I think my favorite part is turning off the mic after you ask her about her cat. I’ve got two cats myself and I want to turn off my own ears when I catch myself talking about them on a date.

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  • Howie Zyle

    You’re drunk rob.. gi.. give me the keys.

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  • Yang Lin

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  • Ofte Nieatofu

    or do it all without phones and computers: http://www.likehint.com

  • Icebiker3

    Hi Rob-
    Thank You for letting me borrow your software. I tried it out, but I found that the algorithm you came up with is just a little too specific, resulting in a rather long reset. I tried to check the fractr module, but the impedance just would not adjust. The Trans-Warp Insulator then cracked, and Residual Magnetism leaked out on to the floor shorting out the FABIO unit. Sorry I broke it.
    As for the girl, we have another hearing next week, and her lawyer said she is calming down.

  • marneteen

    Oh goodness, I think I love you XD

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    Savvy commentary – Speaking of which , if someone are wanting to merge PDF or PNG files , my husband encountered a service here http://goo.gl/dt4ujp

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  • Anonymous

    This is a joke right