Science fiction depicts a future where humans and computers converse in our spoken language. The computers are rarely seen, as they seem to be omnipresent within the home, office, all modes of transportation, elevators, starships, or any place where we humans boldly go. Science fiction visionaries clearly see this technology as something humans both want and expect to have. Today’s technology is progressing in that direction rapidly.
Voice recognition is the process of taking the spoken word as an input to a computer program. This process is allowing human hands to remain free from typing words onto a keyboard, or touching a screen, or touching any sort of buttons. This technology is already installed on our cell phones, and in many new cars, and in virtual reality systems, and now in our homes courtesy of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. This technology will continue to push forward, bringing the human and machine further along in meaningful dialog. “HAL, if your listening, do you agree?”
So, what might this evolution of humans interfacing with computers mean to us when we are selecting a brand name? I suspect it will have great impact. I already stress the importance of a brand name passing the radio test, which means that a brand name when heard by someone unfamiliar with the brand, can repeat the name to someone else, and that person can spell the name correctly as they type that name into their search engine, or browser. I think that the radio test will continue to be of paramount importance when selecting a brand name that works well for both human ears and computer’s listening algorithms.
It is words which connect people to websites on the Internet. It is words that communicate most of the information we humans need. Even the search engines need words for their search processes to calculate relevancy and connect people to content or links. So, while speech recognition technology converts speech from humans, into words for the infrastructure to do it’s magic, it is critical that those words be clear. This means we must avoid words that use hyphens/dashes, and numbers. We should also avoid using words that have multiple spellings which sound the same phonetically.
When choosing a brand name, it would be wise to perform the radio test on your brand name using several people as testers. If everybody repeats the name correctly, and then spells the name correctly, then the name can still be considered a possible choice for branding. Once you have tested with the humans, test the “human approved” names on the machines. Performing the radio test using a machine is not hard to do, but of course you do need some technology to perform the test.
Here is how to radio test your brand name using technology. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, say your brand name into these devices and see how they interpret what you say. If they screw up on interpreting the brand name, drop the name from consideration. If you don’t have one of these devices yes, check your phone or computer for a “speech to text” software application. If you cannot find this software on your phone or computer, there are plenty of application available for download at your favorite app store.
There are many environment variables that can distort the text results a bit, so make sure the background noise is minimized, and that you are speaking clearly into the device. I don’t advise drinking before running this test, albeit slur filters might be a future enhancement. If your brand name passes both the radio test with humans and machines, then congratulations, the name might be good choice for branding.
There are other test which should run before finalizing your selection of a brand name, but more on that in future articles. For now, let’s just all agree that computers want to be spoken to, just like you do – clearly and without confusing words. Be considerate of the spoken word in this new era and we will all get along just fine. “Right HAL?”