Microsoft's Cortana Predicted World Cup Winner, Brazil Is Voice Assistant's Only Blemish

If you want to beat the Las Vegas odds makers, you might want to look at the available software at your disposable. To wit, EA's Madden NFL franchise has correctly predicted the winner of the Super Bowl in 8 of the last 11 tries (but got it wrong this last time around), and Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant for Windows Phone 8.1 devices correctly pegged Germany to win the 2014 World Cup.

That alone is somewhat impressive, but even more so is that Cortana was on a 14-game win streak before the digital assistant incorrectly blemished its once-perfect record by picking Brazil to beat the Netherlands. Instead, the Netherlands emerged victorious by snuffing out Brazil 3-0.

World Cup

We're sure Cortana would like to have that one back, but even so, going 15 for 16 through the tournament is pretty damn good and shines a positive light on Microsoft's Bing prediction engine, which Cortana relied on through it all.

"The model in which Bing uses to predict sporting events like these soccer matches consists of a few things. It looks at the strength of each team through a variety of factors such as previous wins/losses/ties in qualification matches, other international competitions and margin of the victories in these competitions," Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc explained in a blog post. "Then other adjustments are made related to other factors that might give a team advantages over others like home field advantage (for Brazil), proximity (for South American teams like finalist Argentina), playing surface (hybrid grass), game-time weather conditions, and other factors."

LeBlanc says the data can also analyze how people are betting and make appropriate adjustments based on win/lose/tie probabilities. Perhaps one reason it all works so well is that the model doesn’t lean more heavily on any single element but dynamically and continuously adapts all the way up until game time.