DigitalProductivity The Daily Telegraph

‘Intelligent’ software up 8-0 on World Cup predictions


Matthew Sparkes Deputy Head of Technology

July 3, 2014

The artificially intelligent helper Cortana has accurately predicted the outcome of every single World Cup game since a software update gave it the ability to pore over tournament data – can it extend its unbeaten run into double figures tomorrow?

Eight World Cup games have been played since Microsoft ’s answer to Siri, Cortana, was given the ability to predict the outcome of football matches in an update – and it has accurately called the winner every time.

A 100 per cent hit rate is something which even Paul the Octopus could not achieve during the 2010 competition.

Mouni Reddy, one of the Microsoft’s developers behind Cortana on Windows Phone, tweeted after the eighth prediction came true to say: “It’s official, we live in the Matrix”.

Twitter: Mouni – @marcusash@MurariSridharan It’s official we live in the matrix #Cortana 8-0

In a blog post announcing the new feature Microsoft said that predicting the outcome of football matches was trickier than television talent shows, on which Cortana has previously worked her prescient magic, that were voted on by the public: “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.”

Two quarter-final games will be played tomorrow, with Germany facing France and Brazil playing Colombia. If Germany and Brazil emerge victorious Cortana will have stretched its run of accurate predictions into double figures.

Cortana is named after the AI character that appears in the Halo video games, and is voiced by the same actress that provided dialogue for the games. It was demonstrated for the first time in April this year and will become a key part of Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox One in coming months. Currently it is only available to Windows Phone users in the US as a beta.

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