D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial “quantum computer,” announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had.
History Of D-Wave
D-Wave was created more than a decade ago, when it first developed a 16-qubit prototype. The company unveiled its 28-qubit version publicly for the first time in 2007. Since then, its increased its number of qubits at a steady pace, more than doubling every two years or so.
In 2013, the company announced its 512-qubit computer and a collaboration between Google and NASA, who were going to test various algorithms on it and see how fast it could get compared to conventional computers. Last year, D-Wave announced a 1,000-qubit generation, and now the company is previewing its 2,000-qubit computer, which will likely go on sale next year.
Criticism And Results
D-Wave has been criticized by many quantum computing experts, who, for one, say it’s not a true universal quantum computer (which Google itself and IBM are now building), and second, they don’t believe D-Wave’s “quantum annealing computer” is all that useful compared to standard computers.
A quantum annealing computer is a special-purpose quantum computer, so the difference between it and a universal quantum computer is kind of like the difference between an ASIC and a CPU. In theory, D-Wave’s computer should at least be useful for some optimization problems, where you have many variables and are trying to optimize for the best solution.
Last year, Google announced that its tests show that for quantum annealing tasks, D-Wave’s 1,000-qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core:
"We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Even if you account for the fact that a D-Wave computer that costs $10 million is more than 10,000 times more expensive than a regular PC, you’re still left with a difference in performance of 10,000 times faster/dollar.
However, Google’s engineers also admitted that, for now, there aren’t too many practical uses for D-Wave’s technology, but that could change with future D-Wave generations.
The 2,000-Qubit D-Wave Computer
One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore’s Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information.
If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU.
The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave’s quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities:
The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performanceThe ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possibleThe ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system.
D-Wave’s CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave’s quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn’t be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems.
More information about the new computer will be unveiled today at D-Wave’s first users conference in in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where representatives from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA, Lockheed Martin, the Roswell Park Cancer Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USC, and D-Wave will be speaking.