TOKYO - Artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies are starting to play a matchmaking role as they find their ways into people's lives in Japan.
AI devices are being employed to give people a picture of their potential mates along with everything about them -- their hobbies, whether or not they smoke, or if they have walked down the aisle before, among other things.
Matchmaking agency Zwei held a konkatsu (spouse hunting) party in June, at which participants wore wristbands. When they shook hands with each other, their profiles appeared on a tablet computer, facilitating conversation.
"Oh, I see you're a movie lover!" "Do you drink at home?" said one pair, taking their cues from the tablet.
As a way of smoothing over and deepening communication between participants at konkatsu parties, Zwei adopted technology in April, called "intra-body communication," which starts or stops communication with human contact.
The participants at the June event were encouraged to ask more in-depth questions, which appeared on the tablet screen, such as "What would you do if you received 1 million yen ($9,140) and "Do you prefer a dual-income" in a marriage?
"There are questions you hesitate to ask a woman you've just met," a 47-year-old man from Kanagawa Prefecture, said. "But the party was good because I could get a sense of how a potential partner valued money and their work ethic."
The use of the technology has improved the success rate of matchmaking by 10 to 20 percent, according to Zwei.
"We will accumulate data about successful topics of conversation hopefully to raise marriage rates," a company official said. "We hope to create a system that can recognize (spouse seekers') destined soul mates" in the future, the official added.
Akita in northeastern Japan may be known for its "Akita bijin," or beauties of Akita. But the prefectural government will begin an AI-based matchmaking service in January in a bid to raise the marriage rate there, which is the lowest among Japan's 47 prefectures.
The new service will use an AI system developed by Partner Agent Inc., a konkatsu support provider, to find potential spouses for registered members.
While those registered with the service will need to answer more than 100 questions, the system will analyze their answers and recommend partners based on the accumulated data on past relationships and other variables that might determine a good match.
Previously, people registered with the service needed to go through the time-consuming process of visiting any of the three matchmaking centers operated by the Akita government in the prefecture. They were forced to wait for matchmaking staff to arrange opportunities to meet potential marriage partners.
The new system cuts through the red tape by enabling them to complete the process via computer or smartphone.
The Fukushima and Saitama prefectural governments have adopted similar systems, which have not only improved konkatsu activities for participants but also improved work efficiency among the government officials in charge.
Noting that some young people are reluctant to visit matchmaking centers, an official of the Akita government said, "There's no hassle to register. We hope more do so and find a splendid partner with the help of AI."