AI TAPPED TO PLAY CUPID IN LOVELORN JAPAN
Artificial intelligence has become an inescapable part of modern life, and the Japanese government is hoping it can help local municipalities use the technology in their efforts to play cupid for lovelorn residents.
Kyodo News reported that with Japan's birthrate long in the doldrums, the central government has pledged to put funding toward AI capabilities that can help singles registered with locally-run matchmaking services find their soulmate.
The government has secured 2 billion yen ($19.2 million) in the next fiscal year to put toward the implementing of systems that can better analyze huge amounts of data collected from singles, and put it to work, according to the Cabinet Office officials.
Already widely used by private sector dating services and introduced by some prefectural governments, AI-assisted systems can assess more detailed preferences offered up by those undertaking "konkatsu," the Japanese concept of the marriage hunt.
The tech does a deeper dive into the data, using more than simply age, height and income as factors when matching people.
The officials said the AI-assisted systems have proved effective in helping people find partners who fall outside of previously outlined personal parameters.
Japan's many singles, combined with those who find love and marry later in life, are major factors in the nation's low birthrate. In 2019, the number of newborns sank below 900,000 for the first time, reporting about 865,000 births, with the trend likely to continue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The central government has already covered half of municipalities' outlay on introducing and managing the AI systems and now it is offering to shoulder two-thirds if multiple local services pool their users and data to improve the matching hit-rate, according to the officials.
AI systems have already been put to work in 19 of Japan's 47 prefectures, and have proven effective, they said.
Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, has offered AI-based matchmaking services since October 2018. As of Dec. 16, 2020, 33 of 71 couples who used its services and eventually tied the knot met each other thanks to AI-assistance.
"People tend to focus on aspects (they look for in a partner) and their looks, but AI increases their range of choices because it recommends people who may not fit the mold," said Kenichi Yoshida, who is in charge of the Saitama prefectural government's matchmaking program.
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