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A new dating app that allows people to go on 30 second live video dates was recently launched at Penn.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

UPDATE: A correction has been appended to the bottom of this article.

On Thursday, a video dating app called Spin the Bottle Video Chat was launched at Penn. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with the app’s CEO and co-founder, Matthew Cohen, to discuss this unique new way of dating.

Daily Pennsylvanian: How does Spin the Bottle Video Chat work?

Matthew Cohen: Spin the Bottle is a live video dating app, and it lets you go on 30 second video dates. So the way it works is you’re actually playing spin the bottle. But this time instead of playing in a room with friends, you are playing on your phone with compatible people nearby. Compatibility is determined based on age, gender and location, similar to most dating apps. And then you spin a virtual bottle with the swipe of your finger, and the way you swipe actually affects how it spins so there is some skill involved. The users move around in circles, so you have to strategically decide when to spin. After you spin and the bottle lands, it then sets you up on that 30 second video chat with whoever it lands on. And if you’re interested, you can give your date a virtual kiss by tapping our kiss icon. And if both users like each other, it then creates a new match. It’s important to point out that the app uses face detection, so if your face moves out of the camera it will automatically blur the image — so just to be clear this not Chat Roulette. We also offer bonus features, which are pretty cool.… You can freeze the clock to extend the date. The dates are actually anywhere from thirty to ninety seconds long because each user can freeze the clock once for thirty seconds. And then after you match up, we offer free voice calling, video calling and text messaging, all within the app. So you don’t have to give out your number before meeting, which our users really like.

DP: You said in your email that it’s now available at UPenn, so what does that mean in terms of the app and in terms of UPenn students?

MC: We launched at Columbia University last month and we had a really positive response. And we were going to launch city by city, but we wanted to get more people onto the app sooner. So we’ve begun rolling it out at colleges nationwide, including UPenn, and we are focusing our promotional efforts on big schools in major cities similar to Columbia and UPenn. 

DP: How did you think of this idea?

MC: I’m always brainstorming start-up ideas, and I actually keep a list of them as I go throughout my daily life…. I thought of doing a live video dating app because most dating apps today are photo-based, and after I established the general concept of live video speed dating, I started thinking of names, themes and how it can make the user experience fun and memorable. The dating industry is a very crowded market, so I knew we would need more than just live video to stand out. And then I soon realized that the suspense of not knowing who you’d be video chatting with reminded me of the ultimate party game spin the bottle. Live video and dating can be intimidating, so by doing it in the context of a fun, iconic and familiar game, we thought it would help take away some of the pressure.

DP: What are the advantages of video dating?

MC: When you look at dating apps today, you’ll notice that they are all photo-based. We call that the “blind date model,” and we call it that because you just don’t really know who you’re meeting until you show up for that first date. You don’t know how they act, what they sound like, what their personality is like, whether there will be any chemistry. Sure you can get some insight from a photo, but that is also assuming that they even look like their picture. Not to mention that photo-swiping is impersonal, it’s superficial and based almost entirely on looks. The solution to this is simple: it’s live video. Video allows for face-to-face interaction right from the very first contact, meaning that you’re able to assess not only whether you’re physically attracted to that person but you also get a sense of their personality and most importantly whether there’s any chemistry. We believe that live video dates will lead to more meaningful connections, better in-person dates and that therefore it will reduce the number of dates needed to find your match. And that is really what it’s all about, creating better connections, better dates and eliminating that awkward first date experience.

DP: Is the app free?

MC: The app is completely free, all the core features are free. We do, however, offer three bonus features.… We have a daily bonus spin where you win coins every day, and you can use those free coins to unlock those bonus features, or you could also purchase coin packs to unlock those features. All the video chatting, the spinning, the video dates, messaging — all that is completely free and unlimited.

DP: Do the people on your spin floor have to be on the app at the moment you spin?

MC: They don’t necessarily have to be actually in the app. So as long as you have the game turned on, you can actually still be brought back into the app because you will receive a iOS notification alerting you that someone landed on you, and then as long as you go back in the app in time you will then get pulled into that video date. It’s live video though, so obviously the two people do have to eventually be in the app to connect.

DP: Is the app only available for iPhone right now?

MC: It’s only available for iPhone. However, Android users can sign up on our website for our upcoming beta that will be early next year.

DP: What if I’m nervous about meeting people in a live video chat?

MC: Give it a spin. You never know who you’ll meet.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

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Editor's Note: A previous version of this article included several transcription errors. Some words were substituted for similar-sounding ones while others were omitted or paraphrased. The DP regrets the errors.