Hold on to your hats friends, Google has teamed up with NASA and D-Wave and they have a quantum computer. For real.
A quantum computer. What is that exactly? Manufactured commercially by a company called D-Wave, it is a computer built on “qubits” which makes it capable of faster computations of quantum-mechanical questions. Instead of just dealing with two possible outcomes, the binary 1 or 0, a quantum computer is capable of dealing with results in qubits which are simultaneously a 1 and 0.
How exactly does such a thing help a company like Google? The company’s Director of Engineering, Hartmut Neven, explains.
We believe quantum computing may help solve some of the most challenging computer science problems, particularly in machine learning. Machine learning is all about building better models of the world to make more accurate predictions. If we want to cure diseases, we need better models of how they develop. If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what’s happening to our climate. And if we want to build a more useful search engine, we need to better understand spoken questions and what’s on the web so you get the best answer.
Rumored to be one of the first things Google wants to test out with its new toy? Google Glass. What if the wearable computer could tell the difference between an intentional blink or the already involuntary movement of human eyelids? It could lead to the glasses being more finely controlled and open up options such as taking photos with a literal “blink of an eye”.
Of course, in the video released by Google at the Imagine Films Science Festival this week, the company takes a more fantastical look at the possibilities.
You can’t really blame them. The idea of alternate realities and tunneling between the two sounds so much more awesome than taking a picture. However, the video does address another use of the quantum computer – optimization. The ability to take countless bits of information, like those involved in planning a vacation – hotels, flights, cities, attractions, events – and quickly, and accurately, process those into a final result that serves the customer in the best possible way… well a company like Google would be foolish to not want that.
Is it Skynet? Is it V.I.K.I.? Perhaps. Is it also really cool? Absolutely.