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AI startup taps human 'swarm' intelligence to predict winners

After striking it big on the Kentucky Derby, Unanimous AI is unleashing its human-based artificial intelligence, UNU, to the masses to pick sports and politics.

Getty Images/EyeEm

Who says artificial intelligence doesn't involve humans?

Try telling that to Silicon Valley startup Unanimous AI. After recently achieving the rare "superfecta" -- picking the top four finishers in the Kentucky Derby -- using UNU, a new form of human-based AI using algorithms, the company is ready to share its formula with the public.

After more than a year of testing, the online platform is now available in open beta. UNU relies on an artificial "swarm" of human group intelligence that comes together in real time to make predictions, said Louis Rosenberg, its creator. UNU's goal: to find the right answers through consensus.

"We believe success happens when individuals are working together and filling in the gaps of what they don't know by themselves," he said. "We built this to make it a platform that anybody can jump into."

UNU comes at a time when Rosenberg believes 99 percent of all AI under developmentis geared toward replacing human intelligence. Unanimous AI's algorithm is based on how swarms in nature (think bees, birds and fish) reach collective decisions for survival. Rosenberg cites Cornell University neurobiology professor Thomas Seeley, who spent a decade observing how honey bees use "swarm intelligence" to scout for a new home.

A UNU group recently gathered to ask what Hillary Clinton should do with Bernie Sanders if she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.


The perilous search often involves several hundred scout bees working together to scour possible locations.

"If a swarm is able to negotiate by vibrating their bodies to converge on an optimal decision, then why can't humans?" Rosenberg said. "Why can't we model this type of behavior that nature already came up with?"

Rosenberg feels confident after a group of 20 people correctly chose the top four racehorses (Nyquist, Exaggerator, Gunrunner and Mohaymen) in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, defying 540-to-1 odds. That prediction also made Rosenberg a lot of cash. He won more than $10,000 off a $20 bet.

"We defied the odds because no single person in the group had more than two of the horses right," he said. "Not to sound clairvoyant, but as a collective intelligence, we picked all four as they came in."

Rosenberg said that with UNU's recent success, he's betting the public will benefit from using technology that can predict the outcome not only of sporting events but also of political decisions, such as what Hillary Clinton might do with rival Bernie Sanders if she won the Democratic presidential nomination.

The answer: put him on the ticket as vice president.

Here's how it works: Groups can join a UNU forum via laptop or smartphone. Participants are simultaneously asked a question with a set of possible answers. Each has control of a magnet they can maneuver across the screen to drag a sphere to their choice for the right answer.

The sphere can land on one answer as the group has only a minute to collectively reach a decision. Mind you, it's a consensus and not everyone may agree on the outcome.

UNU has predicted NHL MVP candidate Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins will beat the San Jose Sharks in seven games to win the 2016 Stanley Cup, much to this reporter's chagrin.


I was game to see first-hand how UNU works. I recently participated in a UNU group of nearly 30 people to predict which hockey players not only will win top honors in the NHL, but also the final two teams battling for the Stanley Cup -- arguably the greatest-looking trophy in all of sports.

I agreed with the consensus that Chicago Blackhawks' stars Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin will win the Hart Trophy (most valuable player) and the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), respectively, when the awards are announced on June 22.

I also correctly picked with the group that the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks would meet in the Cup finals. However, I take exception with the consensus that the Penguins will win Lord Stanley's cup and will do it in seven games.

Game 1 is Monday night and I'm picking the Sharks to raise Lord Stanley's cup in six. And I'm challenging those in my UNU group who live in Silicon Valley to wear Sharks gear on the day of the parade in downtown San Jose in about two weeks.

Stay tuned...