Google will make real-time Final Four predictions this weekend, air them as halftime TV ads

Google wants to put its data science chops to the test – in real-time. This weekend, the company is going use data analytics techniques and machine learning during the Final Four in San Antonio to figure out what it thinks will happen next in the live games. And after doing so, it will hand off its predictions about the game’s second half to be aired as a halftime TV ad.

The company detailed its plans in a blog post this morning, explaining how the idea grew out of the existing relationship it had with the NCAA regarding statistical game and competition data analysis using Google’s cloud technology. Google then decided it wanted to challenge itself further to see what else it could do with NCAA data.

A team including data scientists, technicians, and basketball enthusiasts was assembled, and Google built a data processing workflow using Google Cloud Platform and technologies like BigQuery and Cloud Datalab. It was able to uncover all sorts of insights, like who blocked the most shots per minute or whether teams with animal mascots caused more upsets. And then Google decided it wanted to try to predict what happens during a live game.

This weekend, it will analyze the data from the first half of the Final Four games in real-time, and turn that prediction into a television ad in a matter of minutes.

The way this works is that Google Cloud team will be on site during the games, and will feed in the data from the first half into its workflow where it’s analyzed against NCAA historical data. When halftime begins, the team will crunch the data and come up with its predictions. The technical teams regarding its workflow have been shared here, on the Google Cloud Big Data and Machine Learning blog.

Before halftime ends, Google will hand off a newly created TV ad to CBS and Turner that will air right before the second half starts.

“This is likely the first time a company has used its own real-time predictive analytics to create ads during a live televised sporting event,” notes Google.

The experiment is a clever way to advertise Google Cloud and other technology, but it’s not the only tech company doing Final Four predictions.

All the virtual assistants are making their own predictions too, including Google’s own Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. But their answers are sometimes more like editorialized opinions and not true data science.

You can keep track of Google’s NCAA experiment on the dedicated site,