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Maine students' device could be a matchmaker

Associated Press / February 15, 2009
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ORONO, Maine - New media students at the University of Maine have developed a prototype of an electronic device designed to bring together people with similar interests and personal characteristics.

The Friend Finder, which can be attached to a handbag or a piece of clothing, contains a series of red LED lights that are programmed to turn on when a prospective match who also has the device comes within 30 feet.

"It's a way to establish a personal connection while using technology," said Sean Collins of York, who was involved in the class. "It's like an icebreaker. You walk past somebody you don't know and it lights up. Then you get into a conversation with somebody maybe you've never talked to."

While the Friend Finder might be used in dating situations, the students see other applications that may be more practical.

They say it could be used at business conventions to match people with similar areas of interest, or at college freshman orientations to bring together like-minded students.

"It's definitely more of a human connection than going to check your e-mail or [social networking websites]," said class member Rebecca Wright.

"I think a lot of people are still wary of meeting people online," she said. "Sure, you can sign up for a dating service and you can go meet a person face-to-face. This way, it's initially face-to-face, and you're not changing your pattern."

"You would be there anyway," Wright said. "You're just doing your normal thing."

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