Unanimous.A.I. on the Kentucky Derby – Not perfect, but swarm was smarter


Last year, Unanimous A.I. made headlines at last year’s Kentucky Derby by using AI to defy 542-1 odds and accurately predict the superfecta – first four horses in correct order – thus allowing a $20 bet to return $11,000.

This year Unanimous entered a partnership with Churchill Downs and TwinSpires, the official better partner of the Kentucky Derby, to tap some of the best racing minds in the industry to handicap the race.

With Always Dreaming coming in the winner, the results in 2017 would not duplicate those of 2016, when Unanimous tapped the intelligence of self-identified horse-racing enthusiasts to make the predictions.

Unanimous A.I. is a Silicon Valley startup that has developed a form of AI called Swarm AI, which combines human insights and AI algorithms into a “hive mind” that is said to be smarter than humans or machines alone. Modeled after swarms in nature, Swarm Insight is said to yield results more quickly and accurately than polls or focus groups.

“Nature builds intelligence from systems of neurons and organisms that biologists call swarms,” said Dr. Louis Rosenberg, founder and CEO of Unanimous A.I. (That is basically why fish school and birds flock. They are making real-time decisions that are smarter together than they would be alone. For the last few years we have been building human swarms, connecting people in real-time to have them work together as a system, moderated by AI intelligence.”

Last year a reporter challenged the company to handicap the Kentucky Derby, so Unanimous tried it. “We didn’t know anything about the Derby or horse racing,” said Rosenberg. They found 20 horse racing enthusiasts, had them log into the system and predict together the first four positions. “The prediction was perfect,” Rosenberg said.

This year, the organizers of the Derby contacted Unanimous and asked them to build a swarm of professional handicappers. Before the race, Rosenberg said, “It will be interesting to see if amplifying the intelligence of experts can match the intelligence of enthusiasts.”

After the race, he said that the swarm predicted four of the top five horses in the 2017 race, which he called “reasonable.” But no one saw 32-1 Looking at Lee coming; no expert listed the horse as a possible top five finisher; the horse finished second. As a group, the swarm identified four of the top five finishers, while individual experts identified an average of 2.6 horses correct in the top five finishers. 

“So even though the expert swarm did not get the the prediction perfect, like last year, the swarming process significantly amplified their intelligence,” said Rosenberg.

To measure prediction trends over a period of time, Unanimous recently conducted a study with Oxford University  to predict the results of 50 English Premier League soccer games over 54 weeks. The Swarm.AI group competed with individual sport fans. “Over five weeks, the swarm was 130% more accurate than the individuals,” said Rosenberg. “This gets rid of the randomness of individual games.”

Based in San Francisco and founded in 2014, Unanimous calls its segment business intelligence, from market research to sales forecasting. It is sold as a subscription service.

For more information, go to unanimous.ai.