Once a year, the world turns to Hollywood on its biggest night, the Academy Awards.
As of Feb. 18, there’s a new experience that helps people satisfy their cravings for information on Tinseltown’s premier event: Bing’s Guide to the Academy Awards. Searching for anything related will open up a newly designed guide that includes nominees, predictions, a ballot, top moments and fashion all in one place. And through the CelebsLike.me search experience, which debuts Tuesday as part of the guide, you can pop in a photo and the site will tell you which Oscar-nominated actor, actress or director from the current and previous years you most resemble, along with runners-up results from a deep pool of celebrity photos.
“The Academy Awards are the biggest showcase of the year. It’s when a lot of different things come together: movies, celebrities and the news cycle. We know a lot of people start searching weeks in advance, ahead of the show,” says Matthew Quinlan, director of product marketing for Bing. “This experience helps feed the passion of people who love entertainment. There’s lots of different places you have to go to get all these different things. But we find that people want to stay in the flow once they’re getting immersed in the Academy Awards. They don’t want to dive around to different websites and piece it all together. We wanted to put that all together.”
In the weeks leading up to the event, people start searching for the nominees. Some do it out of curiosity, others to get an edge in their office pools.
“We built the guide to include Academy Awards topics we know people care about,” says Bonnie McCracken, a senior product marketing manager for Bing. “We know they want to find nominees and predictions, but we also know, based on research, search behavior and data from previous years, they want to find top moments of the night, best speeches, favorite fashion moments, and get involved with activities like quizzes. We wanted to make sure we captured all those Academy Award-related interests into one view so it’s easy for someone to jump between topics and locate relevant content from across the Web.”
McCracken says that designers, data scientists and engineers collaborated to come up with what would be “most visually relevant for our users, including information we could pull from around the Web. We make it easy to go from search to discovery to action.”
Visitors to Bing will see tiles devoted to historic moments, event ballots, current nominees, past winners, movie quizzes and more. Clicking on them will lead to details, including being able to see all the nominees for a category on one page, with Bing’s predictions for each nominees’ chance of winning, and preview trailers. If movies are playing in theaters, fans can find out where and when to go, too. If they’re available to rent, visitors will find out which sites are streaming or carrying DVDs. Searching for actor nominees will lead to other movies they’ve appeared in, their career path, news and images.
Quinlan adds that within Bing’s DNA, design is vital. “Search needs to be more than blue links. We want to bring information to life.”
“Bing is all about powering your passions. There are audiences who get really animated at certain moments in time, whether that’s the movie industry’s biggest night, a full season of college basketball, Dancing with the Stars, or an election campaign” Quinlan says. “They’re looking for information, new ways to experience these big moments, and we want Bing to be a must-have resource for those moments.”
These big moments focus on three areas: sports, elections and entertainment. These are the areas where Bing’s predictions weigh in most heavily, as seen recently with the pro football playoffs and the ongoing presidential primaries.
Visitors to the guide will be able to fill in ballots and test their hunches against Bing’s predictions and the winners of the evening. “It makes you part of the event, not just a spectator,” Quinlan says.
In the past year, Bing has steadily expanded its predictions and improved accuracy, says Walter Sun, principal applied science manager for Bing.
Bing Predicts is weighing in on more award shows, such as BAFTA, Golden Globes, People’s Choice and the Grammys and also relying on results from the outcomes to improve the predictions on subsequent ones.
“We use information from the results of BAFTA and Golden Globes as additional factors to predict the Oscar winners,” Sun says. “The voting process has similarities so we learn the impact of earlier outcomes in relation to the Oscars and then apply these indicators jointly with the Web and social signals.”
The more award shows Bing analyzes, the better it can understand and apply algorithms to its predictions. The more training data the team has, the more the predictions improve.
Bing is also predicting more sports events, such as the NFL and NBA drafts, the Women’s World Cup, NBA playoffs, fantasy football projections and college football bowl season for which they were 6-1 in the playoffs and “New Year’s Six” bowls. Bing Predicts has also done well on their professional football games (both regular season and playoffs), having accuracies five percent better than market odds.
In this presidential election year, Bing has also added the Bing Political Index, which delivers comparisons and stats on candidates and shows where they stand on important issues.
Bing’s mainstay for predictions, Sun says, is still voter-based reality TV shows, where it has had a very high rate of accuracy.
“Predicting Oscars, Grammys and BAFTA awards complements this and satisfies what people want to see from our site,” Sun says.
Bing is also partnering with Vanity Fair to power their predictions.
A new part of the Academy Awards guide is CelebsLike.me. Created by the Bing Image team, CelebsLike.me matches people with their Oscar nominee doppelganger. “Celebrity information is some of the most sought-after content people are searching for on Bing, so we want to give people an interesting and fun way to interact with that through CelebsLike.me,” says Anthony Tran, product lead for Bing Entertainment. “Bing also provides three additional celebrity matches, all based on a person’s facial structure, by searching celebrity images from across the Web.”
“Within Bing, we built up one of the largest vision recognition engines in the world leveraging face and vision APIs that are part of the perceptual intelligence capabilities of Cortana Analytics. This engine runs daily, recognizing web images with high accuracy. This enriches our knowledge in the appearance of a significant amount of celebrities, including Oscar nominees from throughout history,” says Yandong Guo, a researcher at Microsoft. “The performance of our recognition engine comes from a combination of Bing’s unique data assets and user engagement data, as well as a deep understanding of the cutting-edge neural network technology.”
In addition to its own vision recognition engine, Bing works closely with Microsoft’s Project Oxford, which is a collection of cross-platform APIs that enable developers to use artificial intelligence services that Microsoft built internally and is already using in many of its first-party products. Many of these capabilities are also part of Cortana Analytics and can be seen in existing experiences, like How-old.net, TwinsOrNot.net, MyMoustache.net, What-Dog.net! And Mimicker Alarm.
And there lies the appeal of CelebsLike.me, which matches up Bing users with Oscar nominees and celebrities they most look like, using Bing’s search image index.
All these technologies and insights add up to the new Bing Guide to the Academy Awards.
“We’re taking what is seen by most as the biggest awards moment of the year and making sure our experience aligns with that level of excitement and glamour,” McCracken says.
Besides trending topics leading up to the event, visitors to Bing will also be able to find Academy Awards news from the Web during the event and afterward. As winners are being announced, Bing will carry live updates and move from nominees and predictions to winners. Highlights will also post for top moments almost as soon as they happen, as will tweets that stream in throughout the night.
But even after the Academy Awards, Bing will be brimming with information for anyone who enjoys movies and celebrity news.
“Bing is a great place for locating movie-related content all year-round,” Quinlan says. “It really plays to people’s passion for movies, and entertainment, generally.”