“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” That’s all well and good for flowers, but when it comes to robots, names are important. Optimus Prime sounds like someone who can lead the Autobots to victory. “Geoff,” not so much. If you’re struggling to come up with the perfect name for your robot, you’re in good company. Did you know the Roomba was almost called the “Cyber Suck”? One of iRobotics’ co-founders would later say, “Naming is something not necessarily best left to an engineering organization,” and that's where we come in. Hello SciCom can help name your robot, and even come up with a character bible. But before we meet, here’s a few things to think about.
Sometimes, a name that directly describes what a robot does can be the most effective choice. Names can also point directly to the function of the machine. A computer computes, a calculator calculates, a Terminator systematically kills civilian women bearing its target’s name. These names convey purpose and functionality—and in industries like healthcare and manufacturing, clarity is highly prized.
An acronym can make a robot name both functional and catchy. Think of WALL-E, standing for “Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth-Class,” or Honda’s ASIMO, which is short for “Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.” (It also serves another purpose by being an allusion to “Isaac Asimov” and a Japanese pun on mobility.) Acronyms give us a way to convey the essential function of a robot, while still being memorable and easy to say (or in Honda’s case, brag).
Android comes from the latin for “not an iPhone,” and what better way to bridge the uncanny valley than giving your human-like robot a human-like name? Think Rosie from the Jetsons or, one of our favorites, Hanson Robotics’ Sophia. These names can make robots seem more approachable and less intimidating.
A name with a dash of humor or whimsy can make a robot endearing. Names like Miko, the companion robot, or Pleo, the robotic dinosaur pet, add charm to robots and make them more relatable and fun, especially for kids.
For those wanting to emphasize the technological or futuristic aspect of a robot, abstract names or combinations of letters and numbers can be compelling. C-3PO might not be the most evocative name for an android, but R2D2 is a pretty cool name for whatever the hell that is. These names spark curiosity and create a sense of being in a technologically advanced world where everybody communicates in bleeps and bloops, and Scrabble includes numbers.
Ah, the trusty "robo-" and "-bot," the go-to solution for anyone wanting to leave no doubt that they've made a robot. It sure ain’t subtle, and at this point it’s a little overdone. It might have saved a few meetings if Boston Dynamics had just called their product RoboDog, but we’re glad they thought about it a little longer and went with Spot. It provides immediate context and recognition, without sounding hack.
Naming a robot is not a trivial task. Whether you're looking for efficiency, connection, intrigue, charm, or cultural resonance, the perfect name requires careful consideration and creativity. So next time you find yourself pondering what to call your new mechanical friend, remember: a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a robot by any other name might not vacuum your floor quite as impressively. Choose wisely. Better yet: call in the experts.