Researchers often tout the potential of artificial intelligence as a game changer in industries ranging from self-driving cars to in-store assistants, however it appears that AI has one application that almost no one saw coming: gambling.
Yes, you read correctly, the artificial intelligence company Unanimous used a new software platform called UNU last weekend to predict the winners of the Kentucky Derby.
In the experiment, the company enrolled 20 participants who used the software to narrow the field of 20 horses down to four top picks. The participants then used the software, which has previously predicted the winners of the Oscars and the Super Bowl, to predict the winning order of the Kentucky Derby, which turned out to be 100 percent correct: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Gun Runner and Mohaymen.
It's one thing to correctly guess the winner of the Kentucky Derby, but it's a completely different matter to also predict the exact order of the three horses that would finish behind it. That instance is known as the Kentucky Derby Superfecta, and the odds of guessing it correctly are 540-1.
As such, the rewards for guessing the Superfecta are quite lucrative, earning UNU inventor Louis Rosenberg a $10,842 payout from a $20 bet and TechRepublic reporter Hope Reese $542.10 from $1.
"I placed my $1 bet on the race at the Derby on Saturday and made $542.10 - the odds of winning the superfecta [the top four finishers in order] were 540-1," he said.
So how does this process work? UNU uses a unique form of artificial intelligence called swarm intelligence which seeks to amplify rather than replace human intelligence. In this case, a group of people logged into a UNU online forum through their smartphone or computer.
Upon doing so they are presented with a question and a set of possible answers. Each participant has control of a graphical magnet that can be used to drag a puck across the screen to an answer that he or she believe is correct. Here is where things get interesting: There is only one puck, and it can only fall on one answer, meaning that the group has to collectively agree on a decision that best suits them all. What's more, the group only has 60 seconds to reach any single verdict.
As one might expect from the name, this application of swarm intelligence finds its inspiration from bees, specifically, how the insects use their own brand of swarm intelligence to find a new home. UNU's algorithm works in a similar fashion by tapping into the collective knowledge and intuition to give a unified voice based on compromise.
While UNU can clearly be used for gambling, as seen in the experiment, Rosenberg hopes to use the platform in other sectors like health care and politics. For example, a group of doctors could use the platform to make more accurate diagnoses, while politicians could use it to make policy decisions.
"Politicians have conflicting values but not conflicting knowledge," Rosenberg says. "Forcing polarized groups into a swarm allows them to find the answer that most people are satisfied with. Our vision is to enable the power of group intelligence for everybody."