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Why Tech Companies Like IBM and Amazon Brand Artificial Intelligence With Human Names

Artificial intelligence can write copy and manage programmatic media buying at warp speed. It can drive a car and even diagnose cancer. AI is increasingly acting like humans, so companies are putting big resources and marketing money into branding AI with human-like qualities, down to naming their technology after people.

Amazon reportedly picked Alexa for its smart assistant because of its ties to Star Trek and use of soft vowels combined with an ‘x’, making it a unique word that doesn’t easily roll off the tongue (unless you have the misfortune of being named Alexa). Meanwhile, IBM considered a slew of names before landing on Watson, a nod to the company’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson.

“Watson is a human name because it’s a person and it does make the system feel approachable and warm,” said Ann Rubin, vp of branded content and global creative at IBM. “When we do research on Watson, we found that people do think of Watson that way—they think he’s approachable, a ‘humble genius.’ They think he’s smart, that he’s not condescending.”

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