With the coronavirus pandemic reducing chances for people to meet in person, a large number of companies in Japan, including several of its largest, have turned to an AI-powered dating app to help their employees find love, and hopefully become happier and more productive workers as a result.
In all, about 800 firms and organizations across the country have signed up to the app called Aill goen, partly attracted by the fact that the pool of potential matches is limited to employees of the participating companies — thus providing “a secure and safe platform,” according to the developers of the service.
“My goal was to create a platform that would make it easier for employees to achieve a work-life balance and in turn boost the company’s growth as well,” said China Toyoshima, CEO of Aill Inc., the Tokyo-based startup that launched the service in November 2020.
Photo shows Aill Inc. CEO China Toyoshima at a co-working space in Tokyo on Nov. 8, 2021. (Kyodo)
“Employers were worried about the mental health of their workers, who were largely staying at home with almost no physical interaction during the pandemic,” she said, referring to the widespread trend of teleworking.
With the developers also stressing the high rate of dates arising out of use of the app’s innovative artificial intelligence features, the firms to have signed up so far include big-name companies such as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Mizuho Securities Co., All Nippon Airways Co. and The Mainichi Newspapers Co.
The service is being provided as part of the package of welfare and benefits programs that many Japanese firms offer their employees, which have already in some cases traditionally included financial support for workers who use marriage agencies.
But for employees, Aill goen is a much cheaper option. It costs 6,000 yen ($52) per month, with some companies shouldering all or part of the monthly fee. The services of conventional marriage agencies, in contrast, cost roughly double that, along with hefty admission fees running sometimes into hundreds of thousands of yen that individuals may need to shoulder themselves.
While there are dating apps across the world with AI-assisted features, such as figuring out users’ preferences regarding a partner’s appearance, Aill goen’s approach is to focus on intervening during initial text chats, suggesting when someone should ask for a date and what questions to ask to facilitate conversations — the kind of advice one might expect from a best friend.
For example, the AI engine might “coax a man to ask a woman out on a movie date or suggest he wait a while (to ask) if it judges that it’s too soon to make a move,” said Toyoshima.
The AI assists only when it determines the pair’s conversation has hit a standstill and its “intervention is required to ease the situation,” she said.
As of December, 76 percent of active users who had utilized the app’s AI support were able to arrange dates, according to a survey by the startup.
Kyushu Economic Federation, a business lobby in southwestern Japan known as Kyukeiren, adopted the service in March with the aim of enhancing the employees’ quality of life and boosting their productivity and performance at work.