A first look inside Google's futuristic quantum lab | The Verge

A first look inside Google's futuristic quantum lab

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In May, Google launched the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab with hardware from the Canadian quantum computing company D-Wave and technical expertise from NASA. It was an ambitious open research project aimed at exploring both the capabilities of quantum computer architecture and the mysteries of space exploration — but in the months since, they've stayed quiet about exactly what kind of work they've been doing there.

Operated at near-absolute-zero temperatures

Tomorrow, they're breaking the silence with a brief short film, set to debut at the Imagine Science Films Festival at Google New York. The film takes a look at various researchers working on the project, as well as the computer itself, which has to be operated at near-absolute-zero temperatures. Researchers hope the quantum architecture will eventually be used to optimize solutions across complex and interconnected sets of variables currently outside the capabilities of conventional computing. That could allow for new solutions in computational medicine or help NASA to construct a more comprehensive picture of the known universe. "We don't know what the best questions are to ask that computer," says NASA's Eleanor Rieffel in the video. "That's exactly what we're trying to understand."

Video provided by Google

"We don't know what the best questions are to ask that computer."

Beyond the film, Google says it's made great leaps in recent experiments with the quantum chips, determining which algorithms work better in a quantum setup and providing further evidence that the D-Wave processor uses quantum entanglement, a behavior that links particles with no apparent physical connection between them. D-Wave has always claimed that its chips involved entanglement, but it had been difficult to conclusively demonstrate before now.

The first practical application has been on Google Glass, as engineers put the quantum chips to work on Glass's blink detector, helping it to better distinguish between intentional winks and involuntary blinks. For engineering reasons, the quantum processor can never be installed in Glass, but together with Google's conventional server centers, it can point the way to a better blink-detecting algorithm. That would allow the Glass processor to detect blinks with better accuracy and using significantly less power. If successful, it could be an important breakthrough for wink-triggered apps, which have struggled with the task so far.

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