Another day, another win for Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant, who correctly predicted that Argentina would beat the Netherlands in last night’s World Cup semi-final.
The game was 0-0 after 120 minutes, so penalties were needed to break the deadlock; Argentina won the shootout by four goals to two, booking their place in the final this Sunday against Germany.
Cortana, which is Windows Phone’s equivalent of Siri on the iPhone, has correctly predicted the winner of all eight last-16 matches, all four quarter-finals and both semi-finals, thrashing Paul the Octopus, the apparently psychic sea creature who correctly guessed the winner of eight matches in the 2010 World Cup in Germany, including the final.
The virtual assistant, named after an artificial intelligence character in the Halo video game series, faced a tougher test last night than she did in the first semi-final, which saw Germany demolish the hosts Brazil by seven goals to one, with five being scored in just six first-half minutes.
That game went on to be the most tweeted-about sporting event in history, and the minute Germany scored their fifth goal saw a new tweets-per-minute world record.
As for the final, Cortana believes Germany will be lifting the winner's trophy on Sunday evening.
Cortana relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine to guess the winners of each match. A blog post written by the Bing team last month explains how Cortana predicts each game.
“For the tournament, our models evaluate the strength of each team through a variety of factors such as previous win/loss/tie record in qualification matches and other international competitions and margin of victory in these contests, adjusted for location since home field advantage is a known bias.
“Further adjustments are made related to other factors which give one team advantages over another, such as home field (for Brazil) or proximity (South American teams), playing surface (hybrid grass), game-time weather conditions, and other such factors. In addition, data obtained from prediction markets allows us to tune the win/lose/tie probabilities due to the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ phenomenon captured by the people wagering on the outcomes.”