New Israeli dating app replaces profile pictures with animal avatars

Called Lua — dating with depth, the app is currently in beta-testing. Users will have their photos replaced with animal avatars when talking to a match.

 New Israeli dating app Lua lets you pick an animal avatar which will replace your profile picture when in a conversation with a match. (photo credit: Screenshot/Lua)
New Israeli dating app Lua lets you pick an animal avatar which will replace your profile picture when in a conversation with a match.
(photo credit: Screenshot/Lua)

A new Israeli dating app currently in its beta-testing phase is taking a unique approach to the established formula, replacing its users' photos with a chosen animal avatar.

Called Lua - dating with depth, the app itself is currently testing and has around 6,000 participants.

Currently, this unique approach to the app is available for free on Apple and Google stores.

"The world of dating-apps, as we have known it over the past decade, is coming to an end. The superficiality and separation they create does not allow people to really meet."

Roni Makatu

Dating apps: Plenty of profit to be made

The dating app market has experienced a massive boom in recent years, especially due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a number of popular apps widely available around the world. Typically, these apps are usually free but with the option for subscriptions or a full version so users can get the best experiences possible out of them.

So far, this business model has seen considerable success and has resulted in the market being valued at $7.5 billion.

Lua's Roni Makatu (CEO) and Dor Kitenberg (CTO) (credit: Lia Yaffe)Lua's Roni Makatu (CEO) and Dor Kitenberg (CTO) (credit: Lia Yaffe)

The current dating market is awash with a variety of different dating apps. Some of the most well-known include Tinder, OKCupid, Bumble and Hinge, which are apt comparisons.

What do the different apps ask for?

With Tinder, users have their pictures and a short description of themselves as well as their interests, and other users swipe right or left on the various profiles until a match is found. Once this happens, the two can begin a conversation.

OKCupid takes a different approach. Users create full profiles with pictures, short biographies, interests, match options, lifestyle preferences and includes a wide range of possible questions that can be answered, after which users can swipe right or left, but this time send an intro message.

Hinge takes a similar approach to the two, with users making a profile with several pictures, a short bio section to describe lifestyle preferences and so on, and with several questions that are answered. However, they are interspersed separately throughout the profile and each one can be selected and liked on their own, which can be followed by a sort of intro message itself.

Lua's approach is somewhat similar. New users also choose photos and build up their profiles based on what they find interesting, their lifestyle preferences, and so on. They also answer questions prompted by the app, which can range from "What's the most unforgettable thing someone has done for you?" to "How do you feel about crying during sex?" 

But there are two differences that separate Lua from the other apps.

The first is that rather than profiles showing up in a queue to be liked or passed over, it's the questions and answers that show up, with an indication of who answered.

The second change is the app's real selling point: The animal avatars.

While at first glance an app that markets itself as providing an animal avatar may seem like it's pandering to a certain subculture, it actually serves a different purpose. 

How does the app work?

When a new user joins the app, they are asked to provide a picture and asked to describe how they are feeling — the possible answers for this range from happy to bouncy to prophetic to saucy to fluttering. 

Then, you are asked to choose an animal avatar. Each one comes with a brief description. The possible options range from the tried and tested like the lion — described as being associated with courage, confidence and awareness as well as being a natural leader — to the surprising options like an ant - associated with diligence, honesty and loyalty as well as endurance.

The combination of your animal avatar and what you are feeling is how your name will appear as your avatar.

Now, you can choose whether you want to display your profile or avatar when you answer questions - and you are allowed to choose multiple questions too. 

When a user sees your answered question and taps on your profile picture, it takes them to your profile where you can see pictures and other interests and details. Tap on their animal avatar and it instead provides a graph indicating what people have thought of them. 

Say that you get matched. What happens then?

Well, if two people match, it moves into a conversation, like with most dating apps. However, on Lua, both profiles in the conversation will find themselves replaced with their avatars. The purpose of this decision is to make sure both parties focus on getting to know each other without appearances playing a role. The only thing that will matter will be mutual interests and personal and emotional bonds.

But this is just for the current initial beta stage. When it launches an upgraded version in several major cities, users will have the option of an upgraded version set to include a whole host of features, ranging from collaborative sharing features, workshops, personal mentoring options and artificial intelligence-powered match-suggestions.

The goal behind all of this isn't just to make a normal dating app though. According to the Israeli entrepreneurs behind LUA, CEO Roni Makatu and CTO Dor Kitenberg, their goal is to create a community, with them saying in a press release that Lua "is a safe zone, built on conscious communication and playfulness."

"The world of dating apps, as we have known it over the past decade, is coming to an end. The superficiality and separation they create do not allow people to really meet," Makatu explained.

The benefit of a community, they argued, is that it could help people have a sense of belonging and mutual responsibility. This, in turn, will cause ghosting (when someone abruptly abandons a conversation and ignores attempts to resume it) to be reduced.

In other words, the app hopes to be welcoming while simultaneously mysterious, and playful without being too revealing. That is best reflected in the phrase that appears on their website above the download option: "Trust the mystery."