The Swarm Goes to College: Predicting the Playoffs with Collective Intelligence

There is no more exciting time than right now to be a fan of college football. The pageantry of games like the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl is a holiday tradition on par with unwrapping presents and overeating, and the new College Football Playoff is captivating fans across the country.

Will unbeaten and top-ranked Clemson take home the trophy? Or will a traditional powerhouse like Alabama or Oklahoma knock them off? What will happen when two storied programs like Ohio State and Notre Dame meet for the first time in a decade?

You could turn to ESPN or Sports Illustrated for answers, but you often find a barrage of conflicting views among the so-called experts. That’s why, when we wanted to know which teams would win the major bowl games, we didn’t ask the experts… we asked a Swarm.

A new online platform called UNU allows groups to think together, combining their collective knowledge, opinions, and insights into a single intelligence called a “human swarm.” Previous swarms have posted incredible results — including predicting the overall winners of all four major sports last year (Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, World Series, and NBA Finals) and even outperforming the New York Times in forecasting the winners of the Oscars.

Now, we wanted to test a Swarm on the College Football Playoff and some of the major bowl games. Each of the 67 magnets you see below represents an individual user participating in a real-time. Through this process of swarming, the UNU interface allows the group to negotiate their conflicting opinions and converge upon the answer that best expresses their collective wisdom.  And it takes just seconds:

Rose Bowl 2015 Stanford by 7

In a short UNU session held on December 23rd, the swarm predicted the outcome of 7 major bowl games and the entire College Football Playoff:

Of course we’ll have to wait until after Bowl season to find out how the Swarm did, but you can already see that the group was able to find common ground on a wide range of predictions from close-calls to blowouts. And half the time, the Swarm predicted the lower-ranked team would win.

Finally, to demonstrate the power of thinking together, we also asked every member of the Swarm to make the same 10 predictions. So, once the games are played, we’ll be able to compare each user’s individual performance against the predictions they all made together in UNU. In our previous Oscar and Super Bowl studies, no single participant has outperformed the Swarm, but who knows, maybe we’ll discover the next Jimmy the Greek?

What’s that? We forgot to declare a winner? Careful readers have already guessed, but let’s make it official:

College FB Playoff Champ - Alabama

If you believe in the Swarm, we’ve got just two words for you: ROLL TIDE.

Want to try swarming?  Now you can – swarms are forming on all kinds of topics, from football and politics, to movies and technology.  The folks at UNU have opened up the system to Beta Users.  Just fill out the form below to get access. UNU is totally free and completely anonymous.

Join the Beta…


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