What is a wake word and how to brand yours?


“Ok Google, why does your wake-up word work so well?” is a question we could ask directly to the voice assistant of this digital giant. However, it would be very difficult to obtain the answer from an artificial intelligence because of the complexity of this technology. This is where we come into action!

As a reminder, the Wake-Up Word, or Hot Word, is a brick, a module, of speech recognition in the global sense of the term. It is a word or a series of words that allows to trigger the voice recording of the user of a speech recognition system. Although, if we make a small retrospective of the news of Google we can realize that their assistants like to listen a little more than what is expected.

This “keyword” such as the famous “Ok Google” is used to activate the system for two reasons:

  • It respects the privacy of users so that only the sequence that follows the Wake-Up Word is recorded. This one corresponds to the intention, and it is then legitimate that it is recorded.
  • It optimizes system consumption and performance as constant recording and analysis of audio files is a very heavy task if performed continuously.

Now that you have understood, or at least remembered, what the Wake Word meaning is, we can get to the heart of the matter: knowing what makes a good one. Indeed, under its rather simplistic appearance and more of a brand image issue at first glance, it is a real puzzle to find THE right word.

In this sense, Google speech recognition displays a rather exemplary trigger word for several reasons.


Simplicity is key for a wake word


First good lesson from Google and this applies mainly to marketing! Indeed, their wake-up word takes the name of their brand which is added to a very common and simple word to say: “ok”. As a result, thousands of users, whether it’s the voice assistant or the connected speaker, keep repeating Google when they interact with the brand’s tools.

In terms of brand awareness, what could be better? Google’s name already is certainly one of the most reknown nowadays, we let you imagine the rest.


Choosing a uniform word


To this we can add a more pragmatic aspect very well managed by Google’s voice recognition. One of the strengths of its wake-up word is its uniformity. Whatever the languages, “ok” and “Google” are said in the same way. This is very practical for several reasons: only one wake-up word is applied to all markets covered by Google! It seems harmless like that, yet it is very complicated to translate a Hot Word while maintaining consistency and efficiency. Speaking of efficiency, let’s continue on the third point!


Effectiveness at its best


To finish with these praises, Google has found a combination of words that is technically very effective in terms of voice recognition. Indeed, when imagining and developing a Wake Word it is very important to be aware of false positives. False positives are unexpected errors that send positive answers when in reality they are negative. Indeed, the phonemes, the smallest elements composing an audio frequency (translating sound), are very close in the latter case, following a mispronunciation, the system can be activated and record the conversation without the users’ knowledge.

Thus, “Ok” and “Google” are composed of very different and distant phonemes. It results in a very low false-positive rate for Google’s speech recognition.


In this article, we have seen, through different examples, what makes a good Wake-Up Word and the important aspects to take into account when choosing it. To learn more about the rest of voice technologies, other articles in our blog cover different topics related to this technology.


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