"It allows people to join a virtual mobile line from any mobile device and in the period that they're waiting they get notified of how close their turn is."
As a cognitive computing system, QLess and its algorithms are self-correcting—like GPS systems, because they continue to learn over time, Backer said. To build the QLess app, Backer and his team built a lot of their own custom software.
Microsoft Goes Cognitive
Meanwhile, at Microsoft's Build 2016 conference, the company introduced Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of knowledge APIs that enable developers to make their applications more intelligent.
It includes APIs that enable systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret data using natural language. With Cognitive Services, developers can add intelligent features—such as emotion and sentiment detection, vision and speech recognition, knowledge, search and language understanding—into their applications.
At Build, Microsoft also introduced its Cortana Intelligence Suite, formerly known as the Cortana Analytics Suite. Both Microsoft Cognitive services and the Microsoft Bot Framework are part of the Cortana Intelligence Suite.
"We want to give you a set of micro services, these cognitive services, so that you can have language understanding, speech understanding, computer vision built into your applications, and also rich machine learning capability, because we think of this intelligence run time and Cortana Intelligence Suite" as going to be the core of the latest applications, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said in his keynote at the Build conference.
Is IBM Exaggerating?
Still, despite a host of players competing in the cognitive systems arena, IBM's Watson remains among the most prominent entries and IBM is aggressively courting developers to adopt its cognitive platform via the Watson Developer Cloud.
However, even as Watson holds the largest mindshare and marketing share in the field of cognitive systems, it is not without its detractors. In a recent article, Roger Schank, an AI theorist and CEO of Socratic Arts, took IBM to task for its Watson claims.
"Watson is not reasoning," Schank said in his post. "You can only reason if you have goals, plans, ways of attaining them, a comprehension of the beliefs that others may have, and a knowledge of past experiences to reason from."
In the post entitled The Fraudulent Claims Made by IBM About Watson and AI, Schank added: "They are not doing 'cognitive computing' no matter how many times they say they are."
Elliot Turner, director of Alchemy in IBM's Watson division, brushed Schank’s criticism aside. "One of the things I always found about the world of cognitive technology and AI is that if you ask the folks in the research or academic community, they’ll say AI is whatever is not working yet," Turner told eWEEK.
It's a scenario where the goalposts are always moving, he said.
"There was a time when people thought AI was the ability for a computer to understand human speech," noted Turner. "Now we've reduced that to a technology we call speech recognition." Turner was founder and CEO of AlchemyAPI, which IBM acquired last year.
"I think there's a natural and reasonable inclination to doubt vendors' claims about their progress but the attacks by some on IBM and Watson have been over the top," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "In certain cases, they're arising from companies and individuals whose own efforts in cognitive technologies are being overshadowed."