IBM Research said that it is allowing its quantum computing processor to be available for experiments via the company's cloud services. The research lab will be home to a 512-qubit quantum computer built by Canadian company D-Wave Systems. There won't be a charge for the quantum computing tryout. IBM Research has made a few quantum computing breakthroughs and sees the technology as the next generation of computing and supercomputing. The effort, dubbed the IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on Big Blue's quantum processor and work with individual quantum bits, or qubits.
Speaking at MIT Technology Review's EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, Dario Gil of IBM said that quantum computers, which take advantage of the mind-bending phenomena of quantum physics, could have a big impact on one of the hottest fields in technology: artificial intelligence. Unlike classical computers, which store information in bits that are either 1 or 0, quantum computers use qubits, which can exist in multiple states of 1 and 0 at the same time--a phenomenon known as "superposition." Qubits can also influence one another even when they're not physically connected, via a process known as "entanglement." Thanks to these exotic qualities, adding extra qubits to a quantum machine increases its computing power exponentially (see our qubit counter here). There are still challenges to be overcome.
IBM said it is advancing on its efforts to commercialize quantum computing with a 50 qubit processor prototype and online access to 20 qubit processors by the end of 2017. The company will outline its advances at an IEEE conference. IBM has said that it plans to commercialize quantum computing, a breakthrough that will enable new applications for a variety of workloads. IBM delivered a 17-qubit prototype processor in May. Quantum computing processes in parallel compared to traditional processors that are binary.
And so quantum computing, one of the jazziest and most mysterious concepts in modern science, struggles to come of age. It's been a century since scientists discovered that, on the most intimate scales, nature operates according to principles that boggle our poor ape brains. Randomness and uncertainty rule, causes are not guaranteed to be linked to effects, and an electron or other subatomic entity can be everywhere or nowhere, a wave or a particle, until someone measures it. Most of modern technology, from transistors and lasers to the gadgets in our pockets, runs on this quantum weirdness. Lately technophiles, politicians and journalists have been worrying out loud that China is pulling ahead in the effort to harness said weirdness for industry and power, better spying and better computing.
At the forefront of this is IBM, who recently announced that they would connect up a quantum computer to the web and allow us to play with it. The project involves a 5 qubit machine, with a qubit allowing it to operate in both '0 and 1' states at the same time, thus increasing its potential computational power enormously. A one qubit machine has roughly 16 possible states, but once you get over 300, you begin to exceed the number of atoms in the universe.