GOOGLE HAS STEPPED-UP its quantum computing game by testing a machine equipped with 72 qubits, sailing past IBM's 50 qubit computer.
The search giant's boffins hope to use the computer to demonstrate the possibility of quantum supremacy, whereby a quantum computer can perform a task or calculation that's impossible for a traditional computer to complete, or can outperform a supercomputer without the need for performance sapping error-correction.
Quantum supremacy is generally thought to need computers of 50 qubits or greater, which given the finicky nature of bits that exist in both 0 and 1 states at the same time and the vast amounts of power and cooling needed to control them, makes creating and running larger quantum computers a daunting task.
However, IBM created a way for a traditional computer to simulate 56 qubits, when memory limitations were previously thought to have limited such simulations to 49 qubits. As such, it would appear the bar for quantum supremacy is being pushed beyond 50 qubits.
That's probably why Google's new quantum machine sports 72 qubits in a pattern that resembles the scales of a pine cone, giving the computer its Bristlecone moniker.
With the new quantum computer, Google is looking to achieve the best error rates it managed with its nine qubit computer but on a much larger scale.
"We believe Bristlecone would then be a compelling proof-of-principle for building larger scale quantum computers," explained Julian Kelly, research scientist at Google's Quantum AI Lab.
"Operating a device such as Bristlecone at low system error requires harmony between a full stack of technology ranging from software and control electronics to the processor itself. Getting this right requires careful systems engineering over several iterations.
"We are cautiously optimistic that quantum supremacy can be achieved with Bristlecone, and feel that learning to build and operate devices at this level of performance is an exciting challenge!"
At the moment this is all research and testing, so we won't be expecting to see a quantum computing powered Google Assistant anytime soon. But it's yet another step down the road to making quantum computing a tangible reality. µ
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