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When A.I. Bridged a Language Gap, They Fell in Love

When A.I. Bridged a Language Gap, They Fell in Love

He spoke English. She spoke Spanish. After the couple was set up on a blind date, an A.I.-powered lip-dubbing app helped them form a connection.

In June, LeRoy Romero drove four hours from his hometown, Peoria, Ariz., to an Applebee’s in Mexicali, Mexico, to meet Brenda Ochoa for the first time.

It was a blind date, set up by a mutual friend who had sensed a potential match. Going in, Mr. Romero, who works as a mortgage loan originator, knew that he found Ms. Ochoa, a 29-year-old casino dealer, attractive and that she was significantly taller than him. He also foresaw one minor issue: Mr. Romero didn’t speak Spanish, Ms. Ochoa’s native language. And she did not speak English.

As they shared a margarita, Mr. Romero suggested they use translator apps like Google Translate and DeepL Translate to get to know each other. Acting as their interlocutors, the apps inadvertently created less small talk. The couple talked about their inspirations and where they saw themselves in one, three and five years from now. “I felt it was nice without all the useless chatter,” Mr. Romero, 45, said.

But later that month, Mr. Romero realized there might be an even easier way to communicate. At work, Mr. Romero uses an app called Captions to create videos and answer questions for clients. The app uses artificial intelligence to help users edit and record videos, as well as write scripts and add captions. He recalled his friend nudging him to test the app on Ms. Ochoa, saying, “Dude, you got a translation button. Translate, send her a video.’”

Like HeyGen, Verbalate and Zeebra, which debuted similar software last year and have attracted millions in venture capital investments, Captions allows users to not only add captions to their videos but to translate, lip-dub and add subtitles as well, giving users the ability to sync audio and lip movements to a target language, such as Spanish, Hindi, Italian or Japanese. The lip-dub feature, which is also a stand-alone app, can imitate a person’s natural lip movements and echo his or her pitch and tone. That means a video of Mr. Romero can look and sound just like him — it would just be in Spanish.

4:02 p.m. Swoosh. Message sent.

Technology has long mediated communication with romantic interests and potential suitors. Sliding into DMs, swiping right and exchanging an endless stream of messages throughout the day has become the norm. While some are wary of letting A.I. into their love lives, others have begun to embrace it, using chatbots to draft love letters and alleviate the tedium of online dating. Some experts say stories like Mr. Romero and Ms. Ochoa’s could become more common.

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