The Data Game

It’s an old story, sort of. Boy meets girl. Boy realizes he and girl are completely incompatible. Boy has to find new girl.

“People waste a lot of time with people with whom they have nothing in common,” says Ed White, an entrepreneur who imagines instead an uber-efficient dating world where potential couples use his infrared smart cards to determine their compatibility – without the small talk. After all, if that hottie at the bar doesn’t appreciate museums, cigarettes and punctuality, why bother? “You look at this very attractive guy, you like what you see,” White says, “but if the score is lousy, you say, ‘Next!'”

Ratings are based on each individual’s answers to a quiz from a marriage compatibility course. The 96 questions – in categories such as habits, beliefs and sex – are organized into pairs, with the first question asking for an opinion and the second determining that opinion’s importance. The more answers two people have in common, and the more weighty those answers, the higher their compatibility score. The average score is 75 – just like in college – and it’s up to individuals to decide who makes the grade.

Those who invest in the US$29.99 MatchUp system, offered by Interactive Digital Corp. (, can take the test on their PCs, download the results to the one-ounce, credit-card-sized smart card and then point their card at someone else’s. When they are within about a foot of each other, the infrared cards can exchange data and then display the compatibility rating on the screens of both cards.

“My dream is very simple,” says White, himself happily married. “I’d like every single person in the world to have one of these.”

Of course, if things go well, every couple in the world may have a pair of MatchUp cards taking up space in the closet.