A joint project between Google, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Universities Space Research Association, the Quantum AI Lab has announced a multiyear agreement to install a D-Wave 2X, a state-of-the-art quantum processor released earlier this year.
The machine is the most powerful computer of its kind, with over 1,000 qubits. It will be used in tackling difficult optimization problems for both Google and NASA.
The fragility of the qubits means the computer’s processor can only operate at extremely cold temperatures. The 2X’s standard operating temperature is less than 15 millikelvin, a temperature far colder than outer space.
“Working with the D-Wave processors has helped us develop and fine-tune models of quantum annealing,” Google’s Hartmut Neven, head of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, said in a statement. “We look forward to the continued advancements coming from each generation of D-Wave systems.”
But while the lab moves to test the new machine’s capabilities, there are still real questions about whether D-Wave’s approach to quantum computing will yield results. Benchmarking tests on D-Wave’s previous models have failed to find evidence of the so-called “quantum speedup” — the exponential increase in computing power that makes quantum computing so appealing. D-Wave has proposed alternate benchmarks that show something closer to a speedup, but for most experts, the debate is still unsettled.
D-Wave’s computers aren’t Google’s only effort in the quantum computing space.
The search company hired team of scientists from UC Santa Barbara in 2014.
Where D-Wave chains together hundreds of qubits with higher error rates, the UC Santa Barbara group is working with smaller numbers of more reliable qubits, and struggling to maintain low error rates at the scale of the D-Wave machine.
It is unknown which one is better, but whichever one succeeds, it benefits Google.
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