World Cup predictions are like noses: almost everyone, it seems, has one. And even the algorithms like Microsoft’s Bing are taking the field. Microsoft said Tuesday that it is busy collating all sorts of factors, from social to sport, to build a comprehensive picture of the results of the group stages. At this point, however, Microsoft isn’t willing to go beyond the opening games. The World Cup itself kicks off Thursday with host Brazil taking on Croatia at 1 PM Pacific time. Bing began trying to predict the outcome of “reality” shows like American Idol in 2008, after Bing researchers found that that search queries could predict the likelihood of snow days in the Seattle area. Microsoft released Bing Predicts in April and claims to have successfully predicted this year’s winner, Caleb Johnson, as well as the correct results each week since its launch.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine, after using data to successfully forecast the results of American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and The Voice, will now test its predictive abilities on a contest with an even more passionate fan base: The World Cup. Yes, the company is expanding its “Bing Predicts” initiative to the beautiful game, and hoping for a similar result. Microsoft launched the World Cup predictions effort this morning, letting users type in “World Cup Predictions” or “Group A Predictions,” for example, to bring up the forecast generated by its algorithm. The effort is different from predicting the outcome of television shows determined by popular vote. In this case, for example, Microsoft can’t take into account the amount of buzz for a particular competitor as the primary indication of the ultimate winner. Instead, factors used by the Bing Predicts algorithm for the World Cup include the teams’ records, strength of schedule, margin of victory in past matches, whether the location gives a particular team a home field advantage, and the influence of factors including weather and type of playing surface. Bing says it is also double-checking its predictions against other “prediction markets” (hello, Las Vegas) to make sure that it isn’t overlooking a late-breaking development (like an injury to a key player) that its algorithm might not be taking into account. The company is also leveraging the work of its researchers, including predictions expert David Rothschild, to fine-tune its approach.