Gillian Hayes, University of California, Irvine, FitBaby Principal Investigator
One of the strangest things we do in Information and Computer Science research is to name things like projects, software and research groups. We are big on naming. Difficult as it is to get a name just right, it actually turns out to be kind of important. The name of the project or software system is often the first encounter a research participant has with our work, and the name can greatly color what they think the project is all about.
When our project began, the focus was on supporting parents in conducting an assistive exercise intervention in the home. So, we thought about exercise and fitness and came up with the name FitBaby. As the project has evolved, however, it has become about so much more. Now we are working with parents and clinical partners to understand a greater ecosystem of care, one that includes tracking emotional and mental well-being as well as physical well-being. Our research includes families from all kinds of backgrounds; many of these families speak Spanish at home.
For these reasons, we thought we should go back to the drawing board to name our new system, which is the successor of the original FitBaby prototype. After much discussion, we settled on Estrellita, which means “little star” in Spanish. This name honors the cultural background of many of the participants in our studies over the years. It also has the added bonus of highlighting the baby as the “star” of the application and playing on the name of our research group (Social and Technological Action Research, or STAR).
We were concerned about various issues with the name. For example, Karen Cheng, co-principal investigator, made the interesting and compelling observation that many English-speaking Americans don’t know how to make the Spanish “y” sound for “ll” in the middle of Estrellita. This observation prompted us briefly to consider naming it Estrelita to encourage proper pronunciation.
In the end, we've found the name Estrellita to be a pretty good fit. Our team is pronouncing it properly, and Spanish and English speakers alike respond with “Awww!” when told the name (and its meaning for the English speakers). We hope our future Estrellita users like the name as much as we do.
Do you take similar care when naming projects or technology? How have users responded to the names you’ve chosen?