The Real Reason Companies Give Artificial Intelligence Human Names

Hint: It’s not just a label.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Have you ever wondered why large tech companies like Apple and Amazon choose human names for their artificial intelligence products? A recent piece in AdWeek examines how and why specific names are chosen by tech giants. Turns out, it’s to make the artificial intelligence seem more, well, human.

Whether you start your day by asking her for the weather or finish by reminding her to set your alarm, Amazon’s Alexa has become a facet in the daily lives — and homes — of many since it was released in 2015.

David Limp, the SVP of devices at Amazon, explained the strategy behind Alexa’s name at the FORTUNE Brainstorm Tech Conference, noting that they had to avoid a word used in day to day life.

“The phonics of [Alexa] and how that word is parsed and the fact that it has a hard consonant with the X in it, is important in making sure that it wakes up only when it’s asked for,” Limp said.

When IBM was preparing to launch its artificial intelligence product, IBM Watson in 2010, many names were considered. Ultimately, officials at IBM decided on Watson in a dual nod to the company’s first CEO, Thomas J. Watson, and Sherlock Holmes’ famous partner.

Ann Rubin, the VP of branded and global creative at IBM, told AdWeek the company’s decision to give the product a human name saying, “Watson is a human name because it’s a person and it does make the system feel approachable and warm.”

Whether you’re a fan of these names or not, one thing is certain: the trend of humanizing artificial intelligence doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

But that doesn’t mean our world is going to be run by robots anytime soon. A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton SEI Center For Advanced Studies in Management found that there is a direct relationship between the rise of AI in our homes and offices and the demand for emotional intelligence in the workplace.

As technology related to artificial intelligence continues to advance, workers can find solace in the fact that there is one thing artificial technology will never be able to replicate: your humanity.

Read more about branding artificial intelligence in AdWeek.