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November 10, 2014

A Data-Driven Forecast: The Microsoft Prediction Lab

Microsoft Research enabled Bing and Cortana to accurately predict the winners of 15 World Cup knock-out games. Now, the new Microsoft Prediction Lab will predict the future.

A project of Microsoft Research, the Microsoft Prediction Lab combines the latest forecasting techniques and algorithms with the wisdom of the crowd to predict everything from the outcomes of the recent U.S. midterm elections to NFL football games.

The data gleaned from the lab may make Cortana, your virtual personal assistant on your Windows Phone 8.1 Lumia device, and Bing Predicts even more accurate and helpful in the future.

Here’s the goal of the Microsoft Prediction Lab in a nutshell:

“Our team aims to push the boundaries of research in prediction markets, polls, and forecasting. The Microsoft Prediction Lab is a laboratory in which we study things like cutting-edge techniques to keep astronomical numbers of interrelated crowd forecasts consistent, the most effective ways to design prediction questions, and how to produce data visualizations that allow you to quickly understand our forecasts.”

The lab’s interactive website leverages the wide and varying opinions of the public. Add your two cents to questions posed on the site, such as, “Do you support or oppose an increase in the federal minimum wage?” or “Should the U.S. send more aid for the Ebola crisis?”


The Microsoft Prediction Lab also offers games in which you “bet” points to vote on a specific issue. To play, you must first register (free via Microsoft, Facebook or Google). Then, you have 100 points that you can use to predict what will happen in the future, such as which political candidate will win in an election. Future topics may include science and technology, foreign affairs, and social issues.

“A prediction on an unlikely answer will get you a big reward if the answer is right, while a prediction on an outcome that the crowd thinks is likely will yield smaller rewards. If the answer you select is not correct, your prediction is worth 0 points,” the lab’s website says.

The lab is the brainchild of economist David Rothschild, Miro Dudik, and their colleagues at Microsoft Research. Here’s David explaining how the Microsoft Prediction Lab’s website works.

Pretty cool!

So we invite you to go to the Microsoft Prediction Lab, look around, and answer questions if you like. Who knows, your feedback may help Cortana become even smarter than she already is!