First Look: Forget Siri; USAA Ponders Name, Persona for Its Voice App


BBVA plans to call its forthcoming virtual personal banking assistant Lola, while Apple bills its voice assistant Siri and voice recognition software maker Nuance Communications sells Nina to businesses, including banks. Translation: Companies have a thing for referring to their virtual assistants as women with short names.

But USAA, who is readying a voice command feature powered by Nuance's Nina to include in its iPhone app, isn't sold on a four-letter female name.

"We've talked a lot about naming the app," Neff Hudson, assistant vice president of emerging channels at USAA, tells BTN.

That's partly because the San Antonio bank and insurance outfit does not yet know what persona the virtual assistant should evoke for the brand. "It stumped the marketing department," Hudson says. "Who thinks in terms of what a brand sounds like?"

Come the technology's spring launch, USAA plans to simply call its voiced command feature, which has a female persona, Virtual Mobile Assistant.

The names for these services are sure to evolve, especially as providers offer more options.

Hudson, for one, expects all voice assistants to eventually let consumers can pick which voices they like best (e.g. Justin Bieber or James Earl Jones). Jokingly, Hudson says a person could choose a military sergeant-type voice that would speak things like: "You've spent too much money. Go eat noodles today" within a mobile banking app.

"What's really creepy is that you could have a conversation with yourself," Hudson chuckles. "You could have your own voice talk back to you."



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