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Circuit Breaker

D-Wave is now shipping its new $15 million, 10-foot tall quantum computer

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But can it run Crysis?

Quantum computing is a very complicated subject branch of computer science that could one day radically change the way our computers function. At the forefront of that field is a Canadian company called D-Wave, which created the world’s biggest quantum computing chip last year, with over 2000 qubits (quantum bits) to perform calculations. Now, that chip is finally shipping in a 10-foot-tall, $15 million dollar quantum computer called the D-Wave 2000Q, which is a successor to the company’s earlier 1000Q, which only had half the number of qubits.

The actual chip itself roughly the size of a thumbnail, with most of the massive 700 ft3 structure taken up by cryogenic refrigerators and shielding to create the proper environment for the quantum computer to function properly and without outside interference. Specifically, the chip itself is kept at a frigid 15 millikelvins, or -459.6 degrees Fahrenheit through use of a liquid helium cooling system.

The first buyer of the 2000Q is a cyber security firm called Temporal Defense Systems, an apparently real company that is not a Star Trek: Voyager villain, who intends to use it to solve cyber security problems. For those who don’t have nearly as futuristic of a company name (or $15 million to drop on a new computer), it will be possible to access the 2000Q online through a subscription service.

The D-Wave 2000Q performs calculations through a controversial process known as “quantum annealing,” which renders a problem as a topographical map. Opponents of the method, however, claim that it works no faster than a regular computer to solve problems, and that D-Wave’s results are skewed, something that may be worth considering before buying. I’ll direct you to my colleague James Vincent’s excellent report from last year detailing the debate from when D-Wave announced the chip for more information.