How do you replicate the experience of love at first sight on a dating app? That's the obstacle that "The Bachelor/Bachelorette" host Chris Harrison, series creator Mike Fleiss, and Perceptual Networks founder Cheyenne Ehrlich, have attempted to overcome with the development of the new, aptly-titled dating app, At First Sight (iOS, Android).
To capture the real-time intimacy and connectivity (or lack thereof) of in-person dating, At First Sight relies on video-based profiles, precise questions, improved chat and social features, and proprietary, behind-the-scenes technology to help members determine chemistry straightaway. Messaging and content restrictions as well as customizable privacy settings ensure that all members feel safe and secure throughout the engagement process.
Download.com chatted with "Bachelor"/"Bachelorette" host Chris Harrison about the lessons he's learned over the course of the last 26 seasons--and his recent divorce--that he has applied to the dating app, his other favorite apps, and whether he would actually using an app to find dates.
There are a lot of dating apps already out there. Why did you decide to partner up with Mike Fleiss and Cheyenne Ehrlich and create an app like At First Sight?
You take all the advances in technology and then all the lessons that Mike Fleiss and I have learned about dating over the last 11 years, and you look at how dating sites are done now, where you put up an old, Photoshopped picture from when you looked your best and then you fill out a bio or answer arbitrary questions.
Mike and I have been looking for years to get involved in a dating site but none of them made sense because we didn't believe in what they were doing. So when we met Cheyenne and that crew and we put our brains together, the technology's out there and the lessons from "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" are there, so when you meld them together, I think you have this very innovative site. As simple as it is, I think it's very revolutionary. It allows you to truly find chemistry with people.
But what were the specific lessons that you learned about love and relationships through the show that you were able to apply to the app?
Specifically, the way in which we cast the show. We would never have Sean Lowe from last season's "Bachelor" send us a picture of himself, and say, "That guy's great. Let's put him on national television and stake our entire future on him." So our first thought was if we wouldn't do that, then why would you date that way?
You need to hear and see people to get a feeling for them, to know their story and know if they're genuine, and know that they're right. In our instance, it's to know they're right for national TV, but if you apply that to the dating world, it's the same thing.
Was there anything that you learned by watching the various relationships on the shows unfold, past the initial meeting, that you applied to the app?
The interest in going deeper and getting answers to the specific questions you would ask on a date. Obviously on "The Bachelor" we'd put them in a one-on-one setting and have these intimate experiences, where they'd ask each other very specific questions, not generic nor open-ended questions, like you would if you were dating someone.
You'll notice that the videos on our site are very specific and force you in a particular direction, so you really find out about these people. Essentially, what we're doing is taking away the first or second awkward coffee date. What we find on the show, when you sit down with someone, is it starts out general and basic, but you want to get specific, you want to find out: What was the worst date you've ever been on? What's the scariest thing you've ever done? These are very specific things that will really lead me to finding out some insight about you.
Did you test drive other dating apps to uncover what works and what doesn't?
Absolutely. I tried out the dating sites and found them antiquated and dated. I think the idea of putting up a picture (and who knows when that picture was taken?) and filling out a bio don't tell you that much.
We also listened to people that found the other dating sites scary, because they didn't have any security and they didn't feel safe. We took all of this into account and wanted to change the entire landscape of online dating. First, the video profiles had to be done. You have to be able to see and hear these people. Beyond that we want every woman and man to feel safe and secure, as you would want to in the real world.
We've also learned from the online dating sites that people are mobile and I don't think the other sites have taken into account how people speak, how people communicate, and how people get along in this day and age, and they have to move forward. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or or Instagram, you carry everything with you now. You have your phone and your life with you at all times and they're really interchangeable now. This app is created for our modern-day life and I know that that sounds simple, but the other sites really haven't caught up yet.
Dating aside, which apps do you use the most?
Around Me is huge right now, as I'm in New York and looking for everything. Obviously because of what I do, I'm huge on Twitter and Instagram. I use them a lot for public relations purposes and they're great for communicating. And Yahoo! Sports is another big one, because I'm really into sports.
Speaking of Twitter, based on the line of work you're in, I'd imagine that fans must tweet you and ask you for relationship advice a lot.
I have been doing this for 11 years, so people will ask me for relationship advice or want to tell me about their love lives all the time. I don't think people look at me like a Dr. Phil, but I think they've seen me for 11 years talking relationships with people, so they feel like I'm that best friend that they can open up to, which is good. I don't really want to be an expert because I'm not. I'll be the first to admit that I'm just as messed up and single as everybody else. But I do think there's an insatiable appetite and huge void out there for relationships. And it's what our app fills for many people.
On a more personal note, you got divorced last year. Are you dating now?
I am currently very single. I am dating and I am out there. To get deeper, part of what went into this app was my own experience of what I've been through over the last couple of years with my breakup. And I've explained to Michael and Cheyenne that when I got divorced--and this happens to a lot of people--you realize that you have to recreate your entire social structure. A lot of my friends are married with two kids and I see them at soccer practice and baseball practice and it's not like that life is gone or those friends, but you have to recreate that social structure and make more friends. So how do you do that? How do you meet more people? And I think this app will start off as a dating site, but the reach or scope of this will go much deeper, to finding friends or people with like interests.
So a lot of what went into this app was stuff from my life and my personal struggles, getting back in the dating game and realizing how tough it is to really find people for a single dad, living in the suburbs. Where do I go to meet people? And why not find an app that has video profiles, where even a guy like me, who has a higher profile can still safely and securely look at people, see if I have chemistry, and reach out to them privately? So yeah, a lot of this was based on my life.
So are you more of a meeting women in-person kind of guy or would you use an app like At First Sight for dating?
I already have. I was on it this morning checking out the videos. A lot of it is professional research, because I want to see how my project is going; but I'm going to be honest: I narrowed down the search, and was looking at newer videos that were on to see if anyone struck my interest. And when I knew that I would use this, was addicted to it, and found it so entertaining, that's when I knew we were on to something. This is a product that anyone can use, even Ryan Gosling.
Check out a video demo of At First Sight, hosted by Chris Harrison: