‘Tinder for friends’ uses AI to block flirty messages

Making new friends as an adult is hard, and it’s easy to find yourself relying on old college pals and work colleagues to bolster your social life, even if the former live on the other side of the country and the latter are, well, your work colleagues.

Many an app has tried and largely failed to address this problem, but as any woman who’s been brave enough to seek friends — genuine platonic friends — online will know, it’s not long before your inbox is inundated with dire pickup lines, weak attempts at ‘cheeky banter’ and, of course, the ubiquitous dick pic. Enter Patook. Launching globally on July 7 on iPhone and Android, the app claims to make finding new friends easier and less traumatic thanks to an algorithm which detects and blocks flirty language.

Using an AI method known as natural language processing, the ‘flirt detector’ has been trained on millions of creepy messages and pick-up lines circulating the internet, including a huge number submitted to Reddit (of course). It also responds to the behavioral activity of the user: who they message, how often, whether it’s a copy/paste job or if they’ve bothered to think of something original, and so on.

All of this combines into what Patook’s founders unsettlingly call a ‘magic sauce’, which determines whether a message is sent or not. “What kind of music do you like?” is fine. “Would you like to sit on my face?” is not. Break the rules, and you’re banned. In fact, upon the app’s beta release in 2016, five percent of users were banned before their first message was even delivered.

According to Patook CEO Antoine El Daher: “Initial feedback to the app has been extraordinary. People seeking friends and not romantic relationships have been left out in the cold until now. We anticipate rapid growth among all genders, and so far have seen approximately 40% women, 40% men, and 20% joining as couples.”

Romantic advances aside, Patook (which means ‘little hug’ in Armenian) operates in much the same way as a dating app. There’s an extensive set of privacy controls, and users build a profile and search for friends based on the usual criteria: location, interests, age range. The app also uses a points system to specifically identify and rate the value of the criteria they want in a friend. So if you’re into hiking, you might give five points to people who list ‘the great outdoors’ as an interest, or if you’re into Napalm Death, you might give points to other metalheads. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you keep it clean.

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Qualcomm might try to block iPhone shipments over royalty dispute

The Qualcomm vs. Apple licensing squabble had already gotten messy with lawsuits flying in both directions, but a report by Bloomberg says things could go to the next level soon. That’s because according to sources, Qualcomm plans to ask the ITC to block Apple from importing its phones from where they’re built in Asia to the US, ahead of new devices that we’re anticipating in the fall. We don’t know if it could be successful, although Qualcomm holds a number of patents in the space and Apple stopped making payments while the dispute is ongoing.

Qualcomm has cut its revenue outlook by $ 500 million because of the anticipated lack of licensing fees, so this is no small matter. It claims its patented technology is crucial to the iPhone even as it’s being manufactured by someone else, while Apple disagrees. We don’t know if there’s any chance the ITC will side with Qualcomm and actually ban any devices, but the threat puts billions of dollars in iPhone sales at risk.

Source: Bloomberg

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