New way for singles to meet -- the digital zap

LOS ANGELES Fri Aug 3, 2007 3:44pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For people who think they've heard every pick-up line in the book, here's a new one -- let's zap each other.

The line is not likely to work everywhere but at parties hosted by OneKeyAway, it might, with the Los Angeles-based company hosting singles' mixers with a technological twist.

Before parties, guests register online and complete questionnaires. The answers are then transferred to digital memory devices -- red, plastic squares slightly larger than a matchbox -- that the guests wear like necklaces.

During a party, people point their devices at one another to check how compatible they are. The devices flash red, yellow or green, depending on their level of compatibility.

Green means go, and red? Stop.

Edwin Duterte, a banker and founder of OneKeyAway, said he hopes the devices put personality on par with physical attraction.

Duterte said he started OneKeyAway in 2004 because he had trouble meeting women, with his height of 5 feet always proving to be a drawback for him.

"I didn't have a clue how to meet people," said Duterte, 37, who moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago. "All the relationships I had took a back seat. When you're so into work, you lose your skills."

Aida Diallo, an outgoing 33-year-old from Los Angeles, wouldn't say she's lost her people skills -- just her time.

"Here's the thing," said Diallo, sipping a cocktail and scouting the crowd at an upscale bar in downtown Los Angeles. "I have zero time to meet people but I want to be married at some point. I'm trying to meet someone interesting."

While online dating seems to have become a preferred method for meeting people in a fast-paced society, Duterte said Web matchmaking has one main drawback -- lack of personal contact.

"There's no interaction anymore," said Duterte. "We're adding the human touch to a high-tech industry."

The parties, usually held once a week, force people into a social situation and the compatibility keys give people a clue as to whether they want to talk to someone or not.

But the compatibility keys are not always the only element that draws people together. Ask party-goer Bernie Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, an ex-military man, arrived early to a OneKeyAway event and sat at the bar and waited. Soon, the automotive instructor was talking with a woman -- despite the fact they were not compatible, based on their keys.

"All this is is an icebreaker," said Rodriguez, looking at the device around his neck. "We were red, but we're taking a chance on each other."

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