How Microsoft Could Have Helped the Seahawks Win the Super Bowl

By Rob Enderle February 03, 2015

Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, is the Seahawks owner and I’m sure like most of us he wasn’t too thrilled with the final Seahawks offensive call of the 2015 Super Bowl that yanked defeat out of the jaws of victory. Ironically Microsoft had the tools the Seahawks’ Offensive Coordinator could have used to prevent this bad call but the game just isn’t played that way and, given Allen’s roots at Microsoft and one of the technology pioneers, I think that likely should change. 

What gave me the idea was Electronic Arts’ Madden football simulation actually accurately predicted the final Super Bowl score and many of the key elements, but not the last call and Cortana has been pretty accurate during the run up to the Super Bowl (she predicted the Patriots’ Win but had the score of 24 to 23 wrong).  

She likely could have prevented that last mistake as well, let me explain. 

Analytics

Both EA and Microsoft are using simulation to predict the outcome of future events. Both take into account historic information then match it to real time updates to come up with predictions of the outcome. This broadly falls under the category of analytics and the related software is supposed to be used to help executives make better decisions and, increasingly, you can have an answer within seconds of when you ask a question. 

There has been a huge effort to blend this capability with increasing intelligence and a natural language interface. IBM’s Watson is the most widely known effort of its type and it was a prototype of this product that actually won Jeopardy.

Siri and Cortana are vastly less capable aspects of this effort but they are also far more common and recently Microsoft announced they were putting Cortana on every client device (with the possible exception of the Xbox) and we expect Siri will eventually have Watson as a backend thanks to the Apple/IBM partnership.  This is likely already making Cortana far smarter (this Microsoft service regularly outshines Siri). 

Any of these services could have provided the Seahawks’ coach with a list of plays and the probability of success tied to each. A short pass into the crowded end zone likely would have had a low probability for success and a high probability for interception, and resulted in a different end decision. 

But coaches don’t like to ask for help particularly in the last seconds of the game and unseen this advice wouldn’t have been worth much.

Hololens

However recently Microsoft showcased a new product called Hololens, which blends the real and the virtual and can actually see the real world.  Worn by the coach or an assistant and coupled with the right software this would have been able to flash the stats for success up against every recorded play (not only in the Seahawks playbook but out of any playbook it had access to) and forced the wearer to actually see the highest probability plays to call.  

With the right models and a connection back to a good football simulation game like EA’s Madden it could even render likely outcomes for any considered call real time and help the coach better position offensive and defensive players to assure the best outcome for the coach wearing Hololens.   

Hololens, with the right back end, could be the best insurance against a stupid decision that may exist near term on the market and it could have been used to reverse the outcome of the 2015 Super Bowl becoming an even more powerful tool than the Surface 2 Tablets that the NFL uses on the field today.  

Wrapping Up:  Avoiding the Global Disability

Microsoft had several ads during the Super Bowl, perhaps the most compelling was how technology was being sued to correct a child’s disability.  But we all have a bigger disability and that is that we each have potential to do something really stupid we will regret.  Our disability is the inability to consistently make good decisions and it is through a blend of technologies from companies like Microsoft that will eventually result in a cure for our infliction. So the very solution that I think Microsoft could provide the Seahawks that would have avoided that last costly mistake will, in a few years, be available to all of us. I wonder how long it will be before we take this solution and use it to make our lives far more successful I imagine Paul Allan, along with millions of Seahawk fans, wishes that day had happened before Super Bowl XLIX.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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