Cortana Adds NFL Predictions

Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant introduced in Windows Phone 8.1, has had the ability to predict outcomes of some events. Most recently, she did a near-perfect job of predicting World Cup results.

In an announcement on September 3, Microsoft says they have added NFL to the list of events that Cortana can predict. The American football season starts on September 4, so it is timely. In order to use this feature, just ask Cortana: “Who will win, team A or team B?”

Cortana’s prediction feature is based on Bing’s prediction engine. Bing on the desktop has enabled such predictions for reality shows on TV like the singing competition The Voice before.

Microsoft has earlier explained how Bing Predicts works, and how it is able to predict with a high level of accuracy. It is natural that they use all the signals and the data they have, to take it to one of the most popular sporting events in the American calendar.

For NFL predictions, Walter Sun from the Bing Predicts team says:

For pro football, we model the respective strengths of the teams by examining outcomes from previous seasons including wins, losses, and the very rare tie outcome (two games since 2009), factoring in margin of victories, location of contest, playing surface and roof cover (or lack thereof), weather and temperature conditions, scoring by quarters, and multiple offensive and defensive statistics.  In addition to this prior model, we identify fans on Web and Social sites and track their sentiment to understand the aggregate wisdom of this expressive crowd.  This introduces data which statistics alone cannot capture, providing real-time adjustments which surprisingly can capture injury news and other substantive factors in win probabilities.

I understand these things are more fun than useful, and I am not sure anyone who gambles will rely on this to make any bets, but it is good to see Microsoft showing off their machine learning prowess through normal use cases like predictions of NFL games.

NFL Predictions in Cortana
NFL Predictions in Cortana

If you are on Windows Phone 8.1, you can start asking right away. The beauty of most of Cortana’s features is that they are all web services-enabled, which means it does not require any client or app updates. Once Microsoft turns that feature on from the server side, it is available for everyone to use.

Let us know how you like the feature in the comments below!

2011 – How Did We Get Here? Where Are We Going?

Did you know that 74,000 years ago, Mankind was nearly wiped out due to the eruption of a super volcano? In fact, Life on the entire planet has been threatened with 5 major extinctions by climactic changes, asteroid falls, volcanic eruptions and gamma ray bursts, yet here we are.

Here’s a cool video showing what happened.


As I mentioned a few days ago, Mankind’s biggest challenges are directly ahead of us. It may all be over in the next few decades if we don’t   get it right.

However, what lies ahead if we do? What is the future going to look like? One set of futurists believe that we are in the 4th epoch of evolution. They believe that the next epoch, the 5th, is a merging of man and machine called the Singularity.

This set of videos from the BBC, outlines the coming of Human 2.0.

Human 2.0

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t trust every prediction I see, but it’s becoming obvious that we have a tricky road ahead. I hope we don’t end up on the Information Highway to Hell.

What is the Meaning of the 21st Century?

earth-globeAs we start a new year, some of us try to find time to look back over the old year, and try to anticipate the changes coming in the new year.

Some people take the long view. James Martin and a few people at Oxford University, have chosen to think about what’s coming in the next few decades. They’ve put together an hour long video to illustrate the problems and solutions that will be needed for the 21st century. Here’s an 11 minute trailer for the movie.

Follow the link below to see this hour long video.

> The Meaning of the 21st Century

Here’s a quote from the sponsors of it:

We are at an extraordinary crossroads of human history. Our actions, or failure to act, during the next 20 years will determine the fate of the Earth and human civilization for centuries to come. This is a make-or-break century.

There are massive problems in the decades ahead … The good news is that there are solutions.

As we learn to understand this century and play its complex game, we can chart extraordinary futures. We can create civilizations more magnificent than anything yet conceived.

I’ve only watched the trailer at this point, but I’ll take time soon to watch the full movie. I recommend that you make time to watch it as well.

What’s Facebook Going to Announce Tomorrow? Facebook Phone, Email or Skype Acquisition?

will be making a big announcement tomorrow and there are wild speculations of what they could be announcing tomorrow. There are few big things doing the round of rumor mills today including a deeper integration with Skype to bring voice and video chat to Facebook, announcement of Facebook Phone or the resurrection of Project Titan, an email service from Facebook.


So which of these sound more realistic? Let’s take a look at each situations and how it would work out for Facebook.

Acquisition of Skype or Deeper Integration With It

Facebook provides users with an option to chat with their friends, but it is limited to text right now. Adding voice and video chat to Facebook would definitely be a win win situation for them, because most Facebook users would love to interact and share through these mediums rather than having to just do text. Facebook would also be able to capture a huge market of instant messaging users if they add this feature.

Facebook Skype

So where does Skype fit in? Skype is definitely one of the most popular voice and video software which is heavily used for individual chat, group chats, conferencing and podcasting among other things. Integrating it with Facebook would bring a much needed feature to site, allowing users to do something for which they have had to use separate clients.

Recently also added a feature to allow users in US to call mobile phones and landlines in US for free and to make calls to other countries for a small charge. Imagine giving 500 million Facebook users the same benefits and you would have more and more users and advertisers running towards them.

This makes me very optimistic that Facebook would announce some sort of partnership with Skype tomorrow.

Facebook Phone

Facebook Phone

The smartphone market has exploded and there are tons of players in it. There were rumors about the Facebook Phone which were later confirmed. However, announcing a phone which just tightly integrates with Facebook is not going to bring in customers.

If Facebook is doing a phone it has to do a lot more than just contacts and events. It has to allow users to make use of the entire Facebook platform including games and apps.

For example, if the Facebook event app could integrate with the Calendar, it would make it easier to schedule events and then invite contacts from your phone itself. However, I am now very keen on seeing a Facebook Phone tomorrow.

Facebook Email – Project Titan

Facebook Email

Project Titan was a secret project rumored to being developed by Facebook. According to people who were in the know about the project, it is an email system similar to several available today and would allow users to access email through POP or IMAP and send email through SMTP.

Users would be get a email address to send and receive emails. Though not much information is available about this project, it could definitely be something Facebook would want to do.

Take a look at some stats. Hotmail has 360 million users, Yahoo Mail has ~303 million users and Gmail has ~200 million users. Now, Facebook currently has over 500 million users, if they launch email they become the biggest email provider in the world, albeit if all of their users actively use it.

The email system combined with voice and video chat would ensure that people would get everything they want on Facebook itself, rather than having to use multiple services. This also has huge revenue potential for Facebook, because people would spend more and more time on the site to check emails, chat and have fun too.

Note: Yahoo and Gmail email users are estimates from Wikipedia and other sources. Hotmail users is actual count sourced from a recent Microsoft press release.

All of these are mere speculations, but looking at how Facebook has grown in the past few years, they might hit their peak at one point of time, and adding some or all of these features definitely make sense for them, both for growth as well as for revenues.

So what do you think will Facebook reveal in their announcement tomorrow? Any wild guesses?

LongBets: Bet On Long Term Scientific Predictions

LongBets is an interesting community-driven website for people to make bets for long-term predictions that are accountable. The predictions have to be socially or scientifically important and have to be for a period of 2 years or longer.

People making predictions have to pay a $50 publishing fee and can then be taken up by any challenger. Other users can log in and vote for either the predictor or the challenger. Detailed listing of a bet also provides explanations/reasoning from both predictor and challenger and comments from regular users. Stakes on some bets are as high as $1 Million and duration as long as 30 years.

The website, though geared towards having fun and indulging in healthy discussions, also allows people to think outside the box and make bold predictions about the future in different fields. Another interesting fact is the group of people who make these bets. For example, the CTO of Microsoft Craig Mundee predicted that commercial planes will be pilotless by 2030, but the prediction was challenged by Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google.


  • Bet on long term predictions.
  • Read interesting predictions and points of views.
  • Read user comments or post your own.
  • Vote to side with the predictor or the challenger.

Visit LongBets @