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Germany won; so did Microsoft: How Bing predicted World Cup winners

Radhika Nallayam | July 16, 2014
Lev Yashin, one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of football, believed that unpredictability is the beauty of the game. It certainly is. Soccer has the power to keep millions of nail-biting spectators around the world on the edge of their chairs.

The predictions, delivered in its Bing search engine results, and through its Cortana virtual assistant on Windows phones, are part of a broader effort to give people not just relevant search results, but information about things that interest them. This would keep them coming back to Bing, according to Craig Beilinson, Microsoft's director of consumer communications, reports Quartz.

According to its official blog , here is what Bing did to ensure its predictions were accurate:

"The process of predicting outcomes of sporting events is unlike voting show predictions, as popularity and some sentiment signals do not play similar roles in determining who wins a contest. Rather, the actions and performances of a handful of individuals solely determine who wins, loses, or ties.

For the tournament, our models evaluate the strength of each team through a variety of factors such as previous win/loss/tie record in qualification matches and other international competitions and margin of victory in these contests, adjusted for location since home field advantage is a known bias. Further adjustments are made related to other factors which give one team advantages over another, such as home field (for Brazil) or proximity (South American teams), playing surface (hybrid grass), game-time weather conditions, and other such factors.

In addition, data obtained from prediction markets allows us to tune the win/lose/tie probabilities due to the 'wisdom of the crowds' phenomenon captured by the people wagering on the outcomes."

David Rothschild, a Microsoft researcher and economist, and the master-mind behind the technology, relies heavily on prediction-market data. He successfully predicted 2012 U.S. presidential election, the 2013 and 2014 Academy Awards, and, recently, India's general election too. He would probably be able to forecast many more events.

But alas, football may no longer be unpredictable!

 

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