Germany won the FIFA World Cup last night in a tense final against Argentina that saw the game run into extra time, before Mario Götze scored an absolutely beautiful goal that sealed his nation's victory. It was a stunning end to a brilliant tournament but, as we have previously discussed, there was another winner in the World Cup who earned plenty of glory, albeit off the pitch.
We're talking, of course, about Cortana which, by the end of last week, had accurately predicted 14 out of 14 winners in the knockout rounds. Microsoft's digital assistant on Windows Phone 8.1 managed a stunning performance, impressing many, including some on rival smartphone platforms who heard of its remarkable predictions from friends and on social media.
Sadly, Cortana did not end the World Cup with an entirely unblemished record. In Friday night's match between Brazil and The Netherlands - to decide the third and fourth places in the tournament - Cortana favoured the South American team for victory, but it was the Netherlands that triumphed, beating the Brazilian team 3-0, and ending the digital assistant's unbroken run of correct predictions. One observer suggested that Microsoft had not accounted for Brazil simply "giving up" on the game.
Cortana's predictions are powered by Microsoft's Bing prediction engine. The company's Brandon LeBlanc explained that 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. 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."
Overall, Bing had a less impressive record in the earlier group stages of the competition, with around 60% accuracy, before the number of teams had been narrowed down to a more manageable and predictable number. The predictions were only available to Cortana users for the last 16 games of the World Cup, although they were previously accessible to users via Bing.com.
Of course, even the most seasoned experts get it wrong sometimes, but Cortana correctly predicted that Germany would defeat Argentina in the final, resulting in a final core of 15 out of 16 accurate forecasts for Microsoft - not bad at all.
LeBlanc added that it was "pretty amazing we were able to enable the prediction behavior in Cortana in just a week and have it light up on people's Windows Phone 8.1 devices. We're excited to be able to do more of these types of things with Cortana in the future."
We're pretty excited too, and we can't wait to see what other amazing things Cortana can do.