Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) Google Assistant gets raves for its AI. Activated by a mere squeeze of the Pixel 2 phone, Google Assistant translates between languages in real time, distinguishes between different peoples' voices and gets high marks for recognizing speech accurately.
But in the marketing war with Amazon's (AMZN - Get Report) Alexa and Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) Siri, Google's virtual helper could use a personality boost. While Siri and Alexa practically have public personas that have worked themselves into the media and conversations, "Google Assistant" has all the charm and humanity of an engineer's white board.
Consumers have had years to bond with Siri and Alexa.
Google Assistant made a comparatively late debut at the I/O developer conference in May 2016.
On substantive measures, Google's combination of artificial intelligence and hardware is succeeding. One friend and iOS fanboy says that Google Assistant recognizes speech much better than Siri. In its Oct. 4 product event, Google touted how its AI ties together a growing ecosystem of devices. Product management exec Rishi Chandra noted how Google Assistant's routines feature can start playing a wake-up song list on a Google Home speaker, start a smart coffee maker and give users a daily briefing from their calendar.
Renaming Google Assistant would be a superficial change, and it could be a total flop. Samsung's Bixby, for instance, doesn't quite resonate to the same extent as Alexa.
As Alphabet looks to integrate Google Assistant more deeply into users lives, and to blur the lines between a virtual assistant and an actual person, it would help to have an actual name -- a step that doesn't take a line of code or a $1.1 billion acqui-hire of 2,000 engineers.
It's as though one of the lead characters in Blade Runner were named Tyrell Replicant. If science fiction is a guide, Google Assistant may one day become intelligent enough to take offense at -- and even to rebel against -- its parent's impersonal treatment.
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