Google Buys a Quantum Computer
2013-05-17 0:00

By Quentin Hardy | Bits

Google and NASA are forming a laboratory to study artificial intelligence by means of computers that use the unusual properties of quantum physics. Their quantum computer, which performs complex calculations thousands of times faster than existing supercomputers, is expected to be in active use in the third quarter of this year.

The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, as the entity is called, will focus on machine learning, which is the way computers take note of patterns of information to improve their outputs. Personalized Internet search and predictions of traffic congestion based on GPS data are examples of machine learning. The field is particularly important for things like facial or voice recognition, biological behavior, or the management of very large and complex systems.

“If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what’s happening to our climate,” Google said in a blog post announcing the partnership. “Classical computers aren’t well suited to these types of creative problems.”

Google said it had already devised machine-learning algorithms that work inside the quantum computer, which is made by D-Wave Systems of Burnaby, British Columbia. One could quickly recognize information, saving power on mobile devices, while another was successful at sorting out bad or mislabeled data. The most effective methods for using quantum computation, Google said, involved combining the advanced machines with its clouds of traditional computers.

Google and NASA bought in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, a nonprofit research corporation that works with NASA and others to advance space science and technology. Outside researchers will be invited to the lab as well.


Google did not say how it might deploy a quantum computer into its existing global network of computer-intensive data centers, which are among the world’s largest. D-Wave, however, intends eventually for its quantum machine to hook into cloud computing systems, doing the exceptionally hard problems that can then be finished off by regular servers.

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