According to a report from Imperial College London, dates in the near future may not look like they do today. The typical coffee shop date may eventually be replaced by a virtual reality date in your own living room.
The report predicts how relationships will change over the next 25 years (and discusses how they’ve already changed in recent years) using eHarmony’s user data; historical accounts; and interviews with anthropology, technology, and biomedicine experts.
“People want to be matched — and ultimately form relationships with — like-minded people in the most efficient way possible,” eHarmony’s UK director Romain Betrand tells Tech Insider. “What’s different is how people will go about it, redefined by advances in science and everyday consumer technology.”
Here’s how dating and relationships could look by 2040.
1. Dates in virtual reality
Forget swiping right on Tinder — dates in VR could make things a whole lot easier.
In 2015, people have already popped the question in VR. By 2040, you may be able to hold someone’s hand before you actually “meet” them IRL.
With new VR technology, we might not only be able to see and hear other people, but touch and smell them too.
“Nobody would be really too far away to have a relationship with,” he says. “It would be like your partner is in the room with you when you want them around.”
2. The ability to see how our partners feel
In the future, we may be able to physically see a person’s emotions.
New Deal Design, the designers behind Fitbit’s trackers, are working to create a “tattoo” embedded under the skin that visualizes health and emotions.
When someone touches or feels something, the tattoo, called UnderSkin, will glow a personalized pattern. For example, when a person holds their partner’s hand, the tattoo may glow in the shape of a pentagon to express love.
The designers believe they could build UnderSkin by 2021.
3. Relationships with robots
When we’re feeling introverted, we could one day turn to robots instead of humans.
Interacting with a robot, rather than a partner, could create less emotional pressure, says managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics Andrea Keay. By 2029, the report predicts we could have two soul mates: one human and one robot.
4. The end of awkward silences
Imagine a future where you could prevent awkward silences in every interaction or first date.
Based on past advances, researchers believe data processing will become even more efficient in the future. The report speculates that computers could eventually potentially feed conversation starters and live dating advice into our brains.
This real-time artificial intelligence would analyze video data at high speed, providing users with instant feedback about how their date is going.
5. Vine break-ups
Now imagine a future where you could relive every painful break-up in the form of video loops.
As we continue to sacrifice our privacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, the report speculates it could be normal to publicize even the most intimate moments.
By 2030, the researchers imagine a world where we record and share our break-ups as Vines or another future platform.
6. Matching by behavior patterns
We could eventually rely on big data to make better long-term relationship decisions, like who to date, when to get married, and how many children to have.
The report imagines that “telepathic computers” could one day also predict a partner’s behavior before it happens by studying blood flow patterns to the brain.
This information could help people decide whether they want to ditch or keep dating a person — essentially to see whether a partner “could actually change.”
7. Matches by DNA
EHarmony, OkCupid, and Match.com all have their own algorithms based on personality traits and location.
In the future, the best way to find a match may be by DNA.
In the past decade, the cost of DNA sequencing has fallen dramatically, allowing for more research on the role DNA plays in attraction. One 2014 study found that people may be more likely to choose mates with similar DNA profiles.
8. Dates across the world
In the future, people may not be limited to the singles in their city.
The report predicts that cities will eventually have high-speed ways to travel. For example, SpaceX is building a test track for the Hyperloop, which could theoretically travel at 500 mph. A competition to create the perfect transportation pod for the system is slated to happen next year.
If something like the high-speed Hyperloop takes off, an East Coaster could meet up for a date on the West Coast in about two hours.
“Distance would cease to be an issue,” Betrand says.