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Microsoft's Bing eyes the 2016 presidential election after predicting NCAA brackets

Mark Hachman | March 18, 2015
Microsoft's Bing team explains what to expect as March Madness rolls on: an updated NCAA bracket UI and keys to the game. And it's gearing up for the 2016 presidential election, too.

"The moment that we start exposing those statistics, and show how we got there, you're going to trust [Bing] more and find more value more understanding... We're helping you make smarter decisions," Saftler said.

According to Walter Sun, the principal applied science manager overseeing the project, Microsoft also has the capability to adjust the predictions for a game as it progresses. If Kentucky opens its first game by scoring 25 unanswered points, for example, its win probability would climb to almost 100 percent, Sun said.

Microsoft tried real-time predictions for the World Cup, however, and users became confused, Sun noted. So that feature may be left out for now, he said.

A future in politics
Now that Bing's addressed the NCAA men's tournament, plus World Cup and NFL football predictions, you probably don't need the browser's powerful algorithms to guess what's next. When asked whether Microsoft plans to call the 2016 presidential elections, both Sun and Saftler responded with a chorus of yeses. Microsoft already tracks elections and other social and political questions as a matter of course. Microsoft also says it'll add the most popular vacation destinations, whether concert ticket prices are going to go up, and more to the list.

Elections, though, could allow Bing to make predictions on a level of granularity that no analyst firm has before. Microsoft already has access to a wealth of social data, from partnerships with Twitter, Facebook, and more. Typically, analysts like FiveThirtyEight analyze polls--essentially all of that social data, but abstracted. That means Gallup can poll a cross-section of Massachusetts voters, for example, and determine what it thinks might be the most likely candidate.

Why this matters:  If Microsoft can obtain all of that social information itself--and remember, all of that aggregated polling information correctly called the 2012 elections--Microsoft might be able to make even more detailed predictions. That's extremely valuable information to any number of people --especially if Microsoft can track results on the fly. March Madness is one thing, but it pales in comparison to what will take place in November of 2016. 


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