When Google unveiled its new smart assistant earlier this week, it revealed the most basic name possible: Assistant.
Unlike Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa, “Assistant” isn’t catchy. It has no identity.
You don’t even really call it that — to summon it from Google’s new smart speaker, you’d address it with a simple “Hey Google” or the same “OK Google” that you’d use to activate its voice search and predictive service Google Now.
But Assistant’s lack of personality was quite intentional, according to Jonathan Jarvis, a former creative director on Google’s Labs team. While at Google, he lead a team doing concept, strategy and design on products like the Search app and even Alphabet’s logo rebrand.
Jarvis only worked on Assistant up until February, so wasn’t there for the final decision to use “Assistant” as the platform’s name, but says that Google had spent a long time talking about whether or not it should personify its digital assistant.
“We always wanted to make it feel like you were the agent, and it was more like a superpower that you had and a tool that you used,” he tells Business Insider. “If you create this personified assistant, that feels like a different relationship.”
For that reason, Assistant likely won’t be telling you jokes or serving up sassy responses, either.
We also heard while at IO that Google didn’t want to give its assistant a gender or make it seem too American.
While the team didn’t want to give it a personality, they had to call it something, or else it would be hard to distinguish it from regular Google, even though that’s essentially what it is: all of Google’s services mashed together with extra machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Jarvis himself left Google earlier this year to join the startup studio Human Ventures, where he’s working on a stealth new company that he plans to launch in the fall. He says he’s known for a while that he wanted to start his own company, but that the community and team-building offered by Human helped convice him to finally make the leap.
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