Israeli AI chat bot Algo seeks to matchmake Jews worldwide

Algo offers singles possible matches based on a series of questions and then offers dating advice to the couples.

 Screenshot of the Algo homepage. (photo credit: ALGO)
Screenshot of the Algo homepage.
(photo credit: ALGO)

A new online AI bot and algorithm aims to have learned the patterns of successful marriages in the Jewish world and, based on this, find matches for singles. Its pilot in Israel has matchmade 20 engagements in just a few months.

Imagine this: a WhatsApp bot asks you a bunch of questions about yourself; it then takes this data and compares it to the personalities of thousands of married couples and offers a match accordingly. During the dating process, the bot learns more about each of the sides and offers advice or help for the relationship to succeed.

This initiative isn’t commercial, it’s actually being done by a non-profit organization called Algo. The team of young Israelis developed a unique algorithm based on artificial intelligence (AI) integrated with a “bot” that manages communication with the user. The algorithm is “trained” by a database created by analyzing professional character questionnaires built in consultation with leading professionals and completed by thousands of married couples representing a variety of different sub-groups from across the Jewish world.

The convener of Algo is Dvir Kahana, former director-general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry. He is one of the main entrepreneurs who is leading Algo forward and who has a broader understanding of the Jewish world.

Yoni Elitzur, Business Development Manager of Algo, said in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post that “each of our founders came to the realization that dating needed a whole new attitude.” Both Sinai and De Ross are from the religious Zionist sector in Israel and felt, from personal experience, that they and their friends are stuck.

Algo's team of volunteers. (credit: ALGO)Algo's team of volunteers. (credit: ALGO)

"Maayan was single when she and Yuval thought of creating a dating AI bot," he said. They realized that there are only two ways for religious-Zionist singles to find a match: either through a friend who serves as a sort of a matchmaker or [through] dating sites.

 “The problem is that friends don’t have particularly large accuracy or many options," Elitzur said. "The problem with dating sites is that many singles felt that they had to ‘sell themselves’ as if they were a product. We all know that singles browse through hundreds of photos of girls or guys. There is no feeling of intimacy in the whole process.”

 

BEHIND THIS initiative is a group of about 50 volunteers who haven’t made a dime through the organization. 

According to Elitzur, “After analyzing the data, the Algo algorithm knows how to offer precise dating suggestions, with maximum chances of success,” Elitzur said, adding that “the entire process is carried out anonymously, so user’s privacy is maintained until the moment of the offer.”

So how does this algorithm work? The user fills out a professional, comprehensive personality questionnaire, with a bot in Whatsapp or iMessage. Then the algorithm analyzes the data and searches for a match in the user database.

The algorithm may find a match and a suggestion is sent by the bot to both sides.

“If both sides approve the offer, they receive each other’s details and start dating,” Elitzur said.

In addition to the match itself, there is a lot of maintenance that is done while the dating is taking place. “The couple updates from time to time whether they are continuing to date, have broken up – or have gotten engaged.”

Based on user updates from the couple, the algorithm learns and improves, allowing it to make more accurate suggestions, he said. “Our advantage in this learning process is that we are learning from data, based on behavioral questions that can provide real data – the same as used for employment tests,” he said.

 

IN THE FUTURE, Algo plans to offer personal training that will provide tools to help manage relationships on two different levels. First, once someone registers, the algorithm will “identify points in the user’s personality” that, according to Algo’s mission statement, “should be strengthened and empowered” in order to “encourage the success of the relationship.”

After a couple has begun dating, one or both parties can receive personal or couple guidance to help the relationship succeed. “The system will recognize the stage of the relationship by asking questions and provide guidance or sessions depending on the challenges that keep the relationship from moving forward,” Elitzur explained.

Algo has already implemented its proof of concept (POC) stage in Israel, with pretty impressive results: they have had 16,533 users, 4,708 unique couples from the religious-Zionist sector that went on a date and 20 couples that got engaged in the nine months since the technology was released to the public.

“When Algo was first launched, we had a 4.5% selection rate from both parties to a date suggestion; today we have around 12% approval,” he said, adding that “99.6% of people who started our 84-question questionnaire completed it in full; 98% of people who got a date from Algo and decided it is not their future spouse, returned to our chatbot and requested another offer.”

In addition, Algo’s professional team regularly analyzes meta-data to understand “how to improve our algorithm in order to improve results,” the business development manager said. 

“Algo became a benchmark in the religious-Zionist community in Israel: Nearly a quarter of religious-Zionist singles are registered with us,” Elitzur said, adding that many other Israeli sectors have asked to use the bot for other target audiences such as the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and secular people.

ELITZUR MENTIONED the Pew survey, which has become the most popular and in-depth research of American Jews. “The Pew Forum research has found that 72% of Jewish weddings in the US since 2010 (excluding Orthodox Jews) were with a non-Jewish spouse,” he lamented. “We want to make an impact on this figure and make it smaller, say by 10%.” 

Rinat, a partner in one of the 20 couples that has recently met and got engaged through Algo's bot explained that “our story was a little different than usual.” She said that when “Amitai was offered to me as a match... I was dating someone else – so I declined. But a few weeks later, I suddenly remembered that Amitai was offered to me by Algo and tried to contact him. I asked a friend to approach him on Facebook. He was dating at the time, but told me two weeks later that he’d be happy for us to go out.” They dated for half a year and then got engaged.

Another couple that met through Algo wrote a testimonial saying that “unlike dating sites, we felt that the bot is just like a friend who is keeping in touch with us while we were dating. It’s different from any platform, and it really works.”