Google and a corporation associated with NASA are forming a laboratory to study artificial intelligence by means of computers that use the unusual properties of quantum physics. Their quantum computer, which performs complex calculations thousands of times faster than existing supercomputers, is expected to be in active use in the third quarter of this year.
The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, as the entity is called, will focus on machine learning, which is the
“If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what’s happening to our climate,” Google said in a blog postannouncing the partnership. “Classical computers aren’t well suited to these types of creative problems.”
Google bought the machine in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, a nonprofit research corporation that works with NASA and others to advance space science and technology. Outside researchers will be invited to the lab as well.
This year D-Wave sold its first commercial quantum computer to Lockheed Martin. Lockheed officials said the computer would be used for the test and measurement of things like jet aircraft designs, or the reliability of satellite systems.
The D-Wave computer works by framing complex problems in terms of optimal outcomes. The classic example of this type of problem is figuring out the most efficient way a traveling salesman can visit 10 customers, but real-world problems now include hundreds of such variables and contingencies. D-Wave’s machine frames the problem in terms of energy states, and uses quantum physics to rapidly determine an outcome that satisfies the variables with the least use of energy.
In tests last September, an independent researcher found that for some types of problems the quantum
“The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,” said Colin Williams, D-Wave’s director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.” Google declined to comment, aside from the blog post.
The machine Google will use at NASA’s Ames Research facility, located near Google headquarters, makes
Google did not say how it might deploy a quantum computer into its existing global network of computer-intensive data centers, which are among the world’s largest. D-Wave, however, intends eventually for its quantum machine to hook into cloud computing systems, doing the exceptionally hard problems that can then be finished off by regular servers.
Potential applications include finance, health care, and national security, said Vern Brownell, D-Wave’s chief executive. “The long-term vision is the quantum cloud, with a few high-end systems in the back end,” he said. “You could use it to train an algorithm that goes into a phone, or do lots of simulations for a financial institution.”
This month D-Wave established an American company, considered necessary for certain types of sales of national security technology to the United States government.