‘Avatars’ and audio: how the SwoonMe app approaches online dating differently

A profile picture is the most powerful weapon in the online dating world. The right profile picture or the right selfie guarantees the most likes and matches on dating apps. But SwoonMe, an app launched in July 2021, focuses on something else: “avatars” and audio.

Tanvi Gupta, co-founder of SwoonMe and former Meta employee, said the goal was to create “a platform where users can connect, with ‘avatars’ being their primary means of identity.” “Social media is heavily indexed on a person’s appearance, not their personality or interests. And this is especially difficult for women and minorities, who end up feeling very judged. SwoonMe is changing that…” Gupta told indianexpress.com in a video call, adding that while virtual reality dating is still a long way off, augmented reality dating is possible, and that’s what that its application hopes to achieve.

Like any other dating app, SwoonMe allows users to create a profile. But it relies on an “avatar” or cartoon version of the user’s face, based on a real selfie or photo, instead of showing a real photo. The app asks for verification when someone generates their ‘Avatar’. The user is then prompted to upload and post another photo in a certain pose so that the app can match it to the selfie used to generate the “Avatar”. According to Gupta, this is a security check to verify the identity of the user.

SwoonMe currently uses third-party technology to create these “avatars” and plans to expand the functionality soon.

SwoonMe’s Icebreaker Questions where users can record their audio answers to selected questions. (Image source: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)

Once the profile is created, the app will guide a user with prompts on how to record an audio intro, so they can find their match or connect with others on the platform. This audio snippet or description is another vital part of profile on SwoonMe app. “The voice says a lot about the person, so there’s an added element to these ‘Avatars’, which are voice-driven. We bring users into one-on-one chats and help them play like icebreaker games to connect more. We recommend questions in these games based on interests,” Gupta noted.

Interestingly, SwoonMe does not allow users to chat or text each other even after they have matched, which is different from most other dating apps. Two users must have sent a certain number of “audio” messages before the text chat option opens. Even then, they cannot send photos or other attachments via chat, even after the feature becomes available. They can, however, choose to reveal their real photo to their interest after a certain period of time, and if they are comfortable doing so.

Users added by Gupta can also leave a voicemail message to anyone on the app, and no match is required to do so. “If I like what one has to say and can quickly leave a voicemail, it’s kind of old school when people leave voicemails and listen to them,” she said.

Tanvi Gupta, the founder of the SwoonMe app.

Launched in India in January this year, the app already has 25,000 monthly active users. And this is a market where Gupta sees a lot of potential. The app claims to have an engagement time in India of around 20 minutes per day per user, and in the US it’s around 40 minutes, although the company hasn’t disclosed the basis for it. exact daily users.

Gupta is also more confident that due to India’s younger population, revenue from dating apps like hers will only increase. This is also where the “Avatar” bit becomes more critical, and Gupta said she’s seen this indication before during her tenure at Meta. “What we saw in our early beta testing for SwoonMe is that users spend so much time customizing their ‘Avatars’. Gen Z will send a lot more money on these ‘avatars’. People buy these online digital goods to dress up their ‘avatars’ like they would in real life and spend just as much money We see that in data like people spend an average of seven, like six to seven minutes personalizing their ‘Avatar’,” she pointed out.

This “Avatar” aspect is what SwoonMe also intends to rely on. It plans to add “Avatar”-based video calls to the platform soon, where the avatar in the video call mimics facial expressions, hand gestures, lip movements, and more. of a user. It also plans to add more games based on “Avatar” to help people. connect further.

But according to Gupta, the plan is to make these “avatars” more immersive, especially for smartphone users. The company is also working on it, although it declined to divulge further details on future partnerships. “We want to make this experience more immersive, which means the ‘Avatars’ will be more animated. On the profile, there will be an ‘Avatar’ featuring the person in their own voice. Much like what you would see in the metaverse , but on a smartphone screen,” she explained.

The app also has a trending tab where the top performing soundbites or audio snippets can be heard. These are the ones that get the most likes but the likes are not publicly available. “We bring up these trending sound clips in your area, so you can get to know other people who have recorded cool intros…” Gupta said.

Asked about the security features, she said the app allows users to report a profile, block and ignore users, etc., and also report them. “We have an AI that actually looks at the quality of the sound bytes and gives a rating on the back. If there are certain words captured by an AI, the content is reviewed by a content moderator and then removed from the platform if it does not meet our communities or guidelines.

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