Last year, Netflix announced that it would award $1 million to any individual or team that could devise a way for it to improve its movie recommendation engine by at least 10%. While prizes for innovation have grown in popularity in recent years, Netflix is one of the few private business to have attempted something on this scale. Although no team has hit the 10% threshold so far, the contest seems to be going very well. At the moment, a team from Canada and a team from Hungary are duking it out for the top spot out of a field 18,000. The company says they're improvements have led to a 7.42% improvement in recommendation relevancy. One concern initially was whether this contest would capture the imagination of participants the way the X-Prize or DARPA Grand Challenge did. But on this measure, the contest seems to be doing quite well. In addition to the sheer number of participants, it's also spawned a number of academic papers relating to the subject. Although the contest isn't over, the apparent success of it (from multiple standpoints) would seem to augur more of these experiments by other companies going forward.
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