A look at OKCupid’s algorithms: Getting personal with TED-Ed for Valentine’s Day

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, TED-Ed teamed up with Christian Rudder, co-founder of dating website OKCupid, to create a Lesson on dating. In true TED-Ed fashion, the Lesson focused on the algorithm behind OKCupid.

We sat down with one of TED-Ed’s very own animators, Franz Palomares, to hear the (personal) story behind the animation.

We heard there was a special reason you wanted to work on this particular Lesson. What was your inspiration behind the animation?

The general inspiration was very personal. Seven years ago, I met my wife on a dating website! So I felt a great attachment to sharing this Lesson.

Artistically, I had a lot of different inspirations. I knew immediately that I wanted to split it into two distinct categories. A very personal and human side–represented by the hand drawn characters. This is the match that is being made by the algorithm. And a technical side, represented by the 3-D words and the heart transitions. This is the algorithm working. The hearts falling are based on the raining code from The Matrix. I thought it would be a fun way to indicate that the program was working to see if two people were a match.

That male character certainly looks familiar. How did you decide what the characters would look like in the animation?

Haha! The two characters that represent the users were easy. I knew from the moment I took on this Lesson that I would work in some drawings of my wife and myself. From there, I decided I should include a character that looks like Christian to be the narrator.

Christian Rudder’s Lesson focuses on the idea that algorithms can be seen everywhere in everyday life. Do you think this is true?

After spending 2 months working on this piece, I see algorithms everywhere! It’s not just computers but anything and everything, including us. The decisions we make in a day and the decisions we make in our life. They are all step-by-step solutions to various problems. For example, just getting my day started is a solution to a problem. The problem is that I have to get from my apartment in Brooklyn to the office in Manhattan. The steps are simple: wake up, shower, eat breakfast, walk to the subway, ride the train to W. 4th St, and walk to work. That is my morning routine “algorithm.” Sometimes it may alter a little, but it’s always a step-by-step solution.

So tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Any plans?

Now, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, would it?