September 23, 2003

A Colorado entrepreneur has developed a "dating kiosk" to make it easier

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By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain News
September 22, 2003

People looking for love in all the wrong places are about to get some help from modern technology.

A Colorado entrepreneur has developed a "dating kiosk" to make it easier for strangers to find their soul mate - or just a dance partner - in a nightclub, bar or other social hangout.

No more goofy pickup lines, guessing games, or excruciating blind dates . . . at least that's the hope.

Instead, the touch-screen kiosk system is designed to allow people to meet immediately in a particular venue, once they've had a chance to anonymously check out each other's vital stats - including a person's gender, interests, expectations . . . and favorite quotation.

The novel technology - which is wireless and uses the free Linux operating system - is expected to be rolled out next month in a handful of night spots around the nation.

Developer Gary Schneider calls his dating system - dubbed the Meeting Place - a "fusion" of real-time personals, speed dating and intro services that try to fix people up.

"The Meeting Place is for people who want to connect tonight. Right now," said Schneider, 43, whose Masonville startup is aptly named Soft Shoulder.

"It can help people find a dance, a date, a short-term relationship or just someone to talk to," added Schneider, a software guru and former dam builder for the U.S. government.

And the technology could have broader applications - such as permitting people to network at professional conventions, or allowing parents to reunite with lost children at a shopping mall.

Here's how the dating kiosk system would work:

Kiosks would be scattered around the club. Patrons would buy a magnetic-stripe card at the bar or from a self-service machine. The cost: $5-$10 for an evening.

After swiping the card to log on, the patron would use a touch screen to enter some personal information - for example, gender, looks (athletic, perhaps, or slim), interests (say, hiking or skiing); and what he or she is looking for (a date, a dance, or maybe a short-term fling . . . or a long-term romance).

Users would round out their profile with a quote. They could pick from a varied list: "The shortest distance between two people is a smile," for instance, or "What are you doing for sex tonight?"

Alternatively, they could pen their own.

The whole process takes three to five minutes, Schneider said.

Users could then troll among other personal entries to find someone they're interested in and then propose a meeting right then and there at the club by zapping that person an electronic message.

Users on the receiving end, after swiping their card and touching a "contacts" button at a kiosk, could see if they've gotten any nibbles.

If so, they could respond: "Yes. "Let's meet near the bar. I'm wearing a red dress." Or instead say, "Thanks. But you don't seem my type."

The information would get deactivated at evening's end but could be retrieved another night with the swipe of a card.

A variety of events conspired to sow the seeds that led to the creation of the kiosk system.

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Posted by Craig at September 23, 2003 11:20 PM