Microsoft needs your help to predict the future accurately

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Mariella Moon
September 30th, 2014
In this article: microsoft, poll, predictionlabs
Microsoft needs your help to predict the future accurately

Apparently, Microsoft Research is working on a forecasting methodology based on data and not on the fevered dreams of precogs or Nostradamus-wannabes. In the past few months, the project's researchers have been relying on the data they've collected (such as outcomes from past events) to accurately predict several political races and game matches. But now Redmond wants the help of humans to improve its predictive powers, so it has launched a new website called Prediction Lab, where anyone can register and vote on various topics such as who'd win a congressional seat or an NFL match. Unlike ordinary polls, users can vote repeatedly, though they'd have to back up their choices by betting virtual points. This apparently leads to more accurate votes, since people have something at stake, and that could improve the accuracy of Microsoft's algorithms.

Microsoft researcher David Rothschild (who predicted the 2012 Presidental Elections) put the new website to the test during the recent Scotland independence referendum. The morning when the result was slated to come out, Rothschild went on record to say there's an 84 percent chance that majority of the votes will be a "No."

He said:

Not only did we match the accuracy of major polling companies, but we also provided a lot of insight that they weren't able to get, through the fact that we had people coming back again and again.

Since the project was meant to collect data and improve Microsoft's technology, though, users will have to give the company some personal info such as their age and address. Also, some of the questions were apparently quite personal: PC World saw ones that asked the length of users' commute, as well as their stance on abortion. If that doesn't bother you in the least, or if you just really want to place some bets without losing your life savings in the process, head over to Microsoft's Prediction Lab website .

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