D-Wave announced that Google, NASA, and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) have upgraded their 1,000-qubit D-Wave 2X quantum annealing computer to the latest 2,000-qubit D-Wave 2000Q. The new computer is supposed to be up to 1,000 times faster than the last generation for certain optimization problems.
Google And NASA Collaboration
Back in 2013, Google, NASA, and USRA announced a joint research lab called the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL). The three organizations would use D-Wave’s latest quantum annealing computer at the time (the 512-qubit D-Wave Two) to “assess the potential of quantum computers to perform calculations that are difficult or impossible using conventional supercomputers.”
In 2015, QuAIL upgraded to the 1,000-qubit D-Wave 2x, which Google showed to be up to 100 million times faster than a single-core CPU for simulated annealing problems that contained almost 1,000 variables.
Simulated annealing is a probabilistic technique that can approximate the optimum solution for a problem that contains many variables. For instance, it could solve the “traveling salesman” problem, where a salesman may be given hundreds or thousands of locations to visit on a map, and he or she would need to approximate the most efficient travel route.
Simulated annealing can be done on regular PCs as well, but the more variables a problem has, the more difficult it is to solve. Quantum computers promise to significantly reduce the time it takes to solve such problems.
D-Wave recently started to ship the D-Wave 2000Q, and it announced the new device's first customer as well: Temporal Defense Systems, a software security company that planned to use the quantum annealing computer to improve its products.
Google, NASA, and the USRA are now buying the latest generation D-Wave quantum computer, as well, to further explore its potential. The new D-Wave 2000Q is not just up to 1,000 times faster than the previous generation, but it also has better controls, allowing QuAIL to tweak it for its algorithms. QuAIL is now looking at developing machine learning algorithms that can take advantage of D-Wave’s latest quantum annealing computer.
“Through USRA, the broader research community can get access to D-Wave’s state-of-the-art quantum computer, and collaborate with scientists at NASA, Google, and other universities,” said David Bell, Director, USRA’s Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science. “Since the installation of the first D-Wave system in 2013, researchers from around the world have been able to conduct cutting-edge research using technology unavailable elsewhere,” he noted.
Virginia Tech Quantum Computing Research Center
D-Wave also announced that it will help the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) establish a quantum computing research center for defense and intelligence purposes. D-Wave’s role will be to aid the Virginia Tech staff in developing applications and software tools for its quantum annealing computers.
“Establishing a quantum computing center at the Hume Center will advance our mission of supporting national security, and provide access to technology that few researchers can leverage today,” said Mark Goodwin, deputy director and COO of the Hume Center. “Working closely with D-Wave supports that goal in a meaningful, immediate way," he added.
Because D-Wave is not a universal quantum computer, like what Google and IBM plan to build over the next few years, it is not expected to be useful in cracking encryption. Virginia Tech plans to also focus on developing machine learning algorithms for the D-Wave computers.