OmniDate, based in Toronto, has been hard at work building a virtual date technology and it’s likely we’ll see their avatars coming to big name dating sites soon. We’ve all heard about sex in Second Life, the truth however is a lot less steamy; most people have a hard time getting Second Life installed and running on their machine.
Unlike Second Life, OmniDate intends for its avatar dating system to be used by real people who want to set up real life dates. Going on a virtual date is less time consuming, less expensive, and more secure than meeting at a local Starbucks. Once you’ve found someone you enjoy chatting with online, it is more likely you’ll enjoy meeting that person in the real world. My guess is that people will also use OmniDate to flirt, etc.
There are quite a few things to like about OmniDate’s approach:
- It is entirely flash based, this means there is no download, installation, or PhD required. This increases adoption.
- Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket and building a brand around virtual dating, OmniDate is starting out licensing its technology to established players with large audiences and strong brands. This increases their likelihood of success, sidesteps the cost of acquiring initial users, and removes the burden of building brands for each market segment.
Don’t think dating sites would be interested? Guess again. Technologies like this increase the entertainment value of dating sites (read: ad impressions), keep users subscribed longer (read: recurring revenue), and get users comfortable interacting with each other (read: higher conversion).
OmniDate is already working with some large dating sites who plan to use the virtual date technology on their sites. Is now the time for avatars to go mainstream? I can confidently say increased interaction makes sense and it is safe bet online dating will evolve past profiles to entertainment experiences. Give OmniDate’s recently launched demonstration site a try for yourself and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Taking off my rose colored glasses for a second, I think OmniDate has a few things it could improve:
- I read all about the challenges Pixar designers had with Ratatouille. Test audiences noticed if the color of lettuce wasn’t just right, Pixar spent an inordinate amount of time on the color green. Likewise 3D human avatars can go from cool to creepy very quickly. I was thrown off by the laugh an avatar makes when you type ‘LOL’, touching another person’s avatar is also a touchy matter. The avatar experience is still a little rough around the edges; that said, I think the team will iterate quickly and continue to improve the already good design.
- OmniDate has a room builder in the works, I would like to see an avatar builder also. You wouldn’t want your date thinking you are a super model would you…
OmniDate was founded by Igor Kotlyar, a serial entrepreneur who has already successfully built and sold a startup. OmniDate is a 6 person team and growing fast; they are interested in meeting with avatar designers and licensing partners.