Today, Microsoft has launched a new website aimed at ushering in a new era of polling. Today, polling occurs by random sampling to gather data. From this data, pollsters can make predictions on political outcomes. Microsoft has a different method for making predictions of big and small events.
During the World Cup this year, Microsoft predicted 15 of the 16 match outcomes. This was done using a large variety of data. The data came from historical data, online betting data, team stats, etc. Using this data, Microsoft was able to use advanced algorithms to sort and weigh the data by relevancy and accuracy finally resulting in an predicted outcome. Microsoft has continued this trend by predicting Football games every weekend, and has been doing decently well too.
Recently, Microsoft tried their hand predicting the Scottish independence vote. David Rothschild, a researcher at Microsoft, predicted a ‘no’ vote by a large margin. This ran contrary to what other traditional news outlets were reporting. On the news the consensus was that the vote was too close to call. When the results from the vote became public, Rothschild’s predictions were correct.
Researchers at Microsoft can have different results because they are using a different method. Extrapolating data from users can be helpful but they would use other data such as age, race, and gender to adjust and correct for the bias which is in their data. During the 2012 presidential elections, Microsoft posed an optional survey to their Xbox users concerning the election. As you would expect, there was a bias toward young males, but Microsoft has enough consoles in the market and there were enough responses that Microsoft had 176,000 different demographical cells to use. Using these different cells, Microsoft could use a range of other data such as historical statistics of voter turn-out to correct their own predictions.
Similar polls have been now made available through a website Microsoft has created. This website allows users to answer opinion questions and make their own predictions. Covering a range of topics such as Energy and the Environment to Social Issues, Microsoft’s prediction engine will make a guess to the likelihood of a certain outcome. The website gives users a set amount of points and from there users can ‘bet’ their points on an outcome and win more points depending on the result. Microsoft is using this site to drive engagement and interest in the new era of polling. Now you can be apart of this new movement too.Further reading: Microsoft, Microsoft Research, Prediction