At an event held by NASA recently, Google and NASA recently gave an initial glimpse to what could be the future of computing by using quantum computers.
The event was held at NASA Ames campus in Mountain View, California where Google is working with NASA and Canadian startup D-Wave Systems which has built the quantum computer, to build an advanced quantum computing lab.
Both the companies, together with quantum computer manufacturer D-Wave Systems, have been working together on a quantum computer called D-Wave 2X quantum annealer since 2013. While the researchers emphasized that there is still a long way to go before quantum computers can be used widely, the initial test results are positive.
The test, which involved finding out optimized solutions from a number of solutions, was carried out on a traditional computer and the D-Wave Machine. Hartmut Neven, Director of Engineering, wrote in a blog post that they were able to achieve 100 million times faster computing using the quantum computer.
However, presently, these computers can only solve a specific set of quantum calculations and the more general, day to day problems cannot be fed into these computers for now.
We need to make it easier to take a practical optimization problem as it occurs on some engineer’s desk. We need to make the input into the machine easier. That is not there yet.
Hartmut Neven said at the event.
The phenomenal speed of computing is what is required by Google for its complex problems related to machine learning and artificial intelligence. These problems, over the past few years, have increasingly become more complex and difficult to be handled by the traditional computers used by Google.
We have already encountered problems we would like to solve that are unfeasible with conventional computers.
John Giannandrea, a vice president for engineering at Google, said during a press conference on Tuesday. This has led Google towards quantum computing which use advanced principles of quantum mechanics to solve highly complex problems.
Quantum computers, like D-Wave 2X Quantum Annealer, use quantum bits or qubits for calculations as opposed to the binary digit. The traditional binary digit can either assume the value of 0 or 1, but qubits based on quantum mechanics can have variable physical states,i.e, either 0 or 1 or both at any moment.
This property enables quantum computers to process a huge amount of data and to arrive at an optimal solution, for example, finding out the best air route for thousands of airplanes during air traffic control.
Many of the modern AI problems involve crunching of similar complex numbers to find out optimized solution which make quantum computing an exciting prospect. Rupak Biswas, deputy director of exploration technology at NASA Ames said
If quantum computing were to work, it is truly a disruptive technology and it could change how we do everything, almost.
However, he further added that this was just the beginning likening the current state of quantum computing to the early development of conventional computers during the 1930s and 40s and there is a long way to go before such computers are commercialised.