Microsoft Prediction Lab cover

Case study:Microsoft Enters the Prediction Market to Engage Users

13 Sep 2017 by Insight Editor

Microsoft Research wanted to build a platform for predictive markets and polling, where users could submit their views and predictions regarding politics, sports and other subjects. With this entry into public surveys and polling, Microsoft Research knew the first phase of its vision would be to revolutionize prediction market technologies via devices and artificial intelligence.

Accurately making predictions

Having done some early proofs of concept, Microsoft Research was able to validate its engine was correctly predicting outcomes. Although other, gambling-focused prediction engines existed in the market, this site would take a gamification approach, with the goal of making predictions with a high level of confidence.

The research arm of Microsoft quickly learned its engine was sound and that exploiting the engine’s power could be a way to monetize polling. But the product wasn’t commercial-grade, nor could it scale to support millions of users. The data needed to be rationalized and migrated to the cloud. The research team knew that in order for the engine to succeed, it required a compelling user interface. And the project needed to be completed within an extremely tight time frame.

Partnering for predictable outcomes

Desiring architectural expertise to create commercial-grade software capable of supporting millions of users, Microsoft Research enlisted the help of BlueMetal, a division of Insight. Microsoft also liked our ability to design a sticky, consumer-grade, engaging user experience.

The BlueMetal approach to user-led design changed the Microsoft Research team's perspective about the project, resulting in more gamification of the site to make it more rewarding for users. The end-user website is an AngularJS Single Page Application for cross-platform responsiveness. The pre-existing market engine was built in Java, and the solution was built on SQL Azure and Azure Cloud Services. The site leverages federated authentication, so users don't need to remember a separate password.

This solution allowed Microsoft Research to prove scalability. The website is just the first phase in a range of prediction market experiences that could encompass devices, Xbox and other leading-edge platforms. In the future, the site could be used for a limitless variety of predictions.

Meeting timelines and expectations

For this group of dedicated Microsoft researchers, we focused on building the software to a rigorous and iterative process, with cross-disciplinary teams, agile development methodology and a high level of interaction with the client. And we delivered the project in just 15 weeks.

“It was a pleasure working with BlueMetal,” says David Rothschild, an economist at Microsoft Research. “They were professional, efficient with their time and, most important, built an engaging and sustainable platform with a tight time frame.”

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