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Video Networking: Computer System Is Matchmaker, Agent

December 05, 1987|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Perched on a tall director's chair, the 22-year-old manager of a Newport Beach tanning salon touched the word "dating" on the computer screen in front of her.

With an electronic beep, the words "male" and "female" flashed on the screen. Angie Brown touched the word "male." After selecting the "18-25" age category, she gazed at four new sub-categories that appeared on the screen: Career-oriented, people-oriented, ideal-oriented and hedonist.

"Hedonist--how funny," said Brown, pressing "people-oriented."

A computer-generated color picture of a young man named Steve instantly appeared on the screen, accompanied by a background resume that listed everything from his height and weight to his annual income bracket and "personal social goals."

Brown wasn't quite sure what type of man she was looking for, but it wasn't Steve.

"Next," she said, touching the screen again. The picture of a curly-haired man in his late 30s appeared, but he vanished even faster than Steve.

"I just look at the picture first," explained Brown, adding that the resume information "is important--kind of. To be attractive is the main idea. If I see someone who's cute, then I go from there."

It's touted as being everything from "the Pak-Man of people meeting" to "a country club in a box."

It's 'N-Touch, a new personal and business networking organization "whose goal is to assist people in maximizing the value of time spent on interpersonal activities."

In other words, it's a way of meeting people with the aid of high-speed computer technology that allows instant access to literally thousands of individuals who share common interests.

And that doesn't just mean for dating purposes, insists Jerry Orosz, founder of Auricom Inc., the Irvine company that spent two years developing the computer software for 'N-Touch.

"We're an information source," said Orosz, who believes the possibilities for 'N-Touch are unlimited.

In addition to dating, its networking services currently include employment matching and listing, real estate locating, business and professional referrals and sports partner matching: Need a partner for bridge or tennis? How about a financial planner? Or someone who has a timeshare vacation property in Maui? By answering a few simple questions on the computer, Orosz said, 'N Touch can provide just the right match from among fellow members.

The first 'N-Touch networking center opened in Huntington Beach in September. The trendy but sparsely furnished center features six computer monitors on tall stands. The center is across from a popular health club.

"We try to get near health clubs and places where people are active," said Orosz, adding that they are not aiming their business at people who merely spend their days working, eating and watching TV: "We're interested in people who are active."

Orosz, 39, who has an MBA and a Ph.D. in genetic engineering, said he published the world's first medical micro-computer magazine in the '70s. He was director of sales at AST Research, an Irvine computer products manufacturer, when he left to start Auricom in 1985.

"I was looking at the computer business, which is a huge business, and trying to relate that to everyday problems people have in their own lives: problems meeting people, finding real estate, finding a job or finding someone to do your taxes."

Orosz acknowledges the existence of other service-oriented companies aimed at solving some of these "people problems."

"Great Expectations is one that tries to help people in the dating area, and some of the temporary personnel companies locate jobs for people," he said. "What we've done is put all these different things into each computer. It's a one-stop shop."

'N-Touch members, who pay $99 a year, fill out a two-page "perfect match application form" and have their picture taken for the computer resume. (Only the person's first name and an ID number are displayed on the screen to protect their anonymity.) To provide fellow members with more detailed information, a videotape also will be made of each person.

Orosz said members can come into the center at any time to peruse the computer information. If they see someone they'd like to contact, they can either write a message on a form or, for a $2.50 fee, leave a message on a phone messaging system.

Orosz envisions 'N-Touch networking centers one day becoming "as pervasive as video rental stores."

"My goal is to have somewhere around 5,000 (members) in the Huntington Beach area within one to two years and have five or six sites around Orange County in the same time frame," he said. "The long-term game plan is to have about a thousand of these on a national basis within 10 years."

So far, business is building slowly. The Huntington Beach 'N-Touch center's membership is about 200, with slightly more men than women signing up. Most members are professional people ranging in age from 18 to the late 30s.

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