LAVALIFE LOOKS TO SCORE WITH PROF’S INVENTION

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By Shirley Lin

One of the world’s most popular online dating services has approached a Ryerson professor about taking online dating to people’s cellphones.

Lavalife Inc. has expressed an interest in Hossein Rahnama’s “Mobile Matchmaker” technology. The computer science instructor’s invention lets users create a profile on their cellphone – age, sex, hobbies, etc. – and then search for potential mates within a 15-metre radius.

Once a match is detected, the user can then immediately initiate a live chat provided the other person accepts – a service that could cater to Lavalife’s 1.2 million users.

“We might do something with Lavalife, although nothing has been finalized,” Rahnama said.

Although Lavalife would not elaborate on the details, a spokesperson said the company is interested and has had similar products available since 2004.

Rahnama said venture capitalists and electronics distributor Jumbo Mobile has also contacted him.

Angie Keller, a former Ryerson student who used Lavalife in the past, said the match-making software would be useful.

“I’d probably use it if I were still single. [Dating services] aren’t weird anymore, as it’s becoming more accesible and accepted.”

Other students however are unsure whether they would be interested in downloading the program.

“I personally wouldn’t use it. I think in this day and age we get carried away with technological communication. It’s just an extreme matter of laziness. The dating part seems sill, kind of creepy, strange,” said Lisa Inspektor, a third-year criminal justice student.

Mark Federman, who studies relationships at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at U of T, agrees there is the “random, creepy factor.”

“This puts a pop-up sign over your head. This sort of capability flips around what used to be private which becomes public and available.”

For online dating cynics, Rahnama says the software has many other uses.

If you’re looking for a cheap hot meal, in dire need of a business partner or even looking for the day’s sales, the matchmaker is your friend.

“The engine is very customizable. It allows you to search your environment so you don’t need to Google on the internet,” he said.

He said the project sparked from a similar Japanese model called the “Lovegety,” which was a hot item in Japan back in 1998-99. Using the concept of profiles, the pager beeped when a match was made.

A release date has not been set for the matchmaker, as the patents for the technology have yet to be finalized.

Rahnama said he would prefer if the patent belonged to Ryerson, rather than branch off into a big business product.

Ryerson’s Office of Research Services has eased some of the load by funding a mobile lab for the project.

“Ryerson has been very gracious…We asked for good money for [the lab], and it’s very new,” Sadeghian said.

Competition is heating up however, with companies developing similar models; Nokia has already put out a downloadable program called Sensor, although it only features user profiles.

But Sadeghian is not worried; in fact, he welcomes the competition.

“Any competition is rather helpful and gives us an awareness of the trend at the time and the future direction of the research.”

The product will be showcased at Toronto’s annual Science Day in spring 2008 and IBM’s conference, CASCON, at the end of this October.

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