The Stories Behind How Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri & Cortana Got Their Names

Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana are the Digital assistants, born thanks to machine learning and Artificial Intelligence and created by the world’s largest technology companies, have become part of our daily routine, and despite their enormous success, the vast majority of people they do not know the history behind their names. So, today, we will tell you the stories.

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In almost all cases, other names were considered before the definitive one that has reached our days: Cortana is almost called Alyx and Steve Jobs did not like the name of Siri. In fact, the reason that names such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa prevailed has often had more to do with chance and circumstances than with a particular marketing decision.

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Consistent with the brand and easy to remember. This should be the name of virtual assistants: unique, but capable of digging into memory, simple pronunciation, and brief extension. The x in the center of Alexa brings loudness, whereas the cadence in three syllables of Cortana causes a simple memorization thanks to the repetition of the same vowel.

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Behind the best known will come others: as the new assistant of Samsung known as Bixby, and Nokia is working on its own proposal called Viki and say that Facebook does the same with a beta virtual assistant baptized as “M”. But now, let’s get acquainted with the stories of the world’s most famous digital assistants.

1. Google Assistant

Google, both with Google Assistant and previously with Google Now, reverses the tendency to humanize digital assistants by baptizing them with person names. Its assistant has that name theoretically as unoriginal or insipid for reasons of weight since it is part of a much larger strategy.

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With its virtual assistant, the company wants to emphasize its own services and technology, not the concept of an assistant itself. What the technology wants is for people to think of their wizard as an extension of their search engine and other products, rather than a separate and independent product with their own personality.

2. Cortana

Microsoft’s virtual assistant did not seem destined to be christened Cortana and the user’s praises had a lot to do with its definitive character. In fact, Cortana was simply the internal code name given to the project in its early days. “It was just a codename to get started,” recalls Deborah Harrison, one of the first members of Cortana’s editorial team.

It happened that, like many other secret projects, Cortana’s name leaked, receiving an unexpectedly warm response from consumers to the idea of a digital assistant named Cortana. The fans were so excited that they asked Microsoft to keep it. “People are really willing to buy a Windows Phone if the Personal Assistant is called Cortana,” Harrison said.

The member of Microsoft points out that the name worked because its cadence is extremely correct for the recognition, clearly differentiating itself from other words that the user may be saying near the device. After considering alternatives such as Naomi or Alyx, the company accepted and Cortana debuted publicly in April 2014.

3. Siri

Surely, Apple is the most famous of the digital assistants, Siri Originally was created as part of a massive project of Artificial Intelligence of the US military organization DARPA. “We wanted something easy to remember, short on writing, comfortable to pronounce and not too common, as well as getting a cheap domain,” Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer told Quora magazine.

In Nordic, Siri means “beautiful woman who takes you to victory” – something that dazzled the general manager of Siri Dig Kittalus, Norwegian – while in Swahili means “secret”, something that Cheyer loved by the connection with the mysteries from Apple.

Although Steve Jobs was not in favor of the name, the team did not agree on a better alternative. “It was a big surprise for the team that Apple decided to keep the original Siri name for launch as part of iOS,” Cheyer said.

4. Alexa

The inspiration for this creation came from science fiction, in particular, the Star Trek universe. Its name, according to David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president is rooted in the intention to evoke the legendary Alexandria Library of ancient Egypt with a magnetic name.

During the conference, Fortune Brainstorm Tech revealed that in brainstorming, they were looking to build a relevant personality for their Artificial Intelligence assistant. The phonetics of the word accentuates its power and is also one of the most “human” names of digital assistants.

As a curiosity, the name “Alexa” ranked 32 on its list of the 1,000 most popular names in 2015, with 6,029 newborns sharing a name with the Amazon assistant for their Amazon Echo device.

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