During our week at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, we got the opportunity to meet with Gummi Hafsteinsson, Product Manager for Google Assistant. While we had many discussions with the passionate and knowledgeable Googler, one of the questions posed by others at the roundtable made me reflect more than any other, “Why doesn’t Google’s assistant have a real name, like Siri or Alexa?”

This is something I’ve heard and read multiple times and to be honest, the question has never gelled with me.

It turns out Google’s Assistant does have a name, and it’s very simple. Google.

If you’re Google and you are building a voice service to replace your original search product, wouldn’t you want to keep the branding? When we search for something I would wager that 99% of us and those we know say “I’ll Google that”. You just can’t buy that kind of brand recognition.

Let’s say that Google did give their assistant a “real name” something distinguished, yet playful, knowledgable yet relatable, say it was called …. Duncan, yeah that fits! It wouldn’t take long for users to start saying I’ll ask Duncan that, not I’ll ask Google. Considering the tenuous position Google is in with their reliance on advertising revenue to fund their business, to dilute their brand in their core search product would just be plain stupid.

I honestly don’t know why people have an issue with the Google branding of their Assistant, but it’s clear that some people do. I wonder, however, if ‘real people’ worry about it or just those close to tech, journalists, pedants and analysts? An Assistant by any other name would still be so useful, surely.

Is this quest for a name some sort of search for anthropomorphism or are people just desperate for any point of difference to single in on between these assistant products? I have to admit that on the spectrum of Google enthusiasts I measure well past completely impartial, that said I actually love Google having a voice, being something I can interact with.

I grew up without Google and have seen the difference it has made in the acquisition of information. Google, as a company is fun, whimsical and intelligent, being able to talk to an assistant with the same qualities, is plain awesome, regardless of it’s logical if unimaginative branding.

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Malcolm B

I’m not sure about others, but my main issue with it is that “OK Google” is a really clumsy phrase to utter, whereas something like “Hey Siri” rolls off the tongue much more smoothly (and hence is much faster to say).

Malcolm B

To be honest, even a change to “Hey Google” would make it a little more natural to say. I think I read that this is possible on Google Home but adding this to the phone would be a plus for me.

Yianni soc

your house would be hilarious:
Wifey: Hey Duncan, turn off the lights
Duncan: babe, we don’t have smart lights.
Wifey: i know, i was telling you to turn off the lights.


and that’s different to now how….


My beef is why they went with Pixel and Pixel Xl instead of Pixel and Megapixel.


Ok Duncan…thanks for the great article. 🙂

Totally agree. I think one of the main issues we have with AI is that we think that in order for it to be ‘successful’, it needs to be just like a human being. While this may help us interact with it, it isn’t really being innovative. While Google does try to mimic human conversation, I believe it is going way too far down the anthropomorphism route to start calling it by a human name.


Thanks Straker, Assistants don’t need to be Human to be cool ,in fact the more human like they are the more I’d feel uncomfortable asking them to do stuff, I already say please and thank you where I can.