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.
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!