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IBM Will Sell 50-Qubit Universal Quantum Computer In the Next Few Years (arstechnica.co.uk) 90

Months after laying the groundwork for offerings in emerging tech categories such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, IBM sees quantum computers as a big, if nascent, business opportunity. From a report on ArsTechnica: IBM will build and sell commercial 50-qubit universal quantum computers, dubbed IBM Q, "in the next few years." No word on pricing just yet, but I wouldn't expect much change from $15 million -- the cost of a non-universal D-Wave quantum computer. In other news, IBM has also opened up an API (sample code available on Github) that gives developers easier access to the five-qubit quantum computer currently connected to the IBM cloud. Later in the year, IBM will release a full SDK, further simplifying the process of building quantum software. You can't actually do much useful computation with five qubits, mind you, but fortunately IBM also has news there: the company's quantum simulator can now simulate up to 20 qubits. The idea is that developers should start thinking about potential 20-qubit quantum scenarios now, so they're ready to be deployed when IBM builds the actual hardware.
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IBM Will Sell 50-Qubit Universal Quantum Computer In the Next Few Years

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  • Hmmm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @10:41AM (#53984841)
    I really want to buy one but at the same time I don't.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      I'd ask if you want one right now, but you'd probably change your mind
      • I'd ask if you want one right now, but you'd probably change your mind

        The fact that you've observed him wanting one means that the result is now in a fixed position.

    • You appear to be in a super position.

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      I really want to buy one but at the same time I don't.

      Maybe if you don't look at your credit card bill, you can stay in a superposition of 1/2 bought, 1/2 resisted for a while, but as soon as you look, your world will collapse... Or maybe the decision is entangled with your spouse in which case your spouse can spontaneously collapse that decision for you...


  • Please, anyone, care to explain why should we care?

    In the next 20-50 years when quantum computing is commonplace, what mundane, regular Joe Schmo life things will this help with?
    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @10:59AM (#53984941) Homepage
      It is unlikely that most people will see quantum computers in their day to day lives. But one will see the many improvements that they give. For example, there's strong reasons to think that quantum computers will make doing chemistry simulations easier, resulting in more new interesting things in different contexts, including medicines. For similar reasons, one expects that quantum computers will make it easier to design better classical computers.
      • It is unlikely that most people will see quantum computers in their day to day lives.

        Was it not one of the IBM's bosses who once claimed that the computer world market would consist of four or five computers? Or DEC's Ken Olsen who averred that nobody had the need to have a computer at home? Or Bill Gates who asserted (allegedly, probably just an urban legend) that nobody would ever need more than 640 KB RAM? It is next to impossible imagining a quantum computer in one's pocket, but people in the 60s would have laughed if told about the devices that currently hold in our pockets.

        • Sure, it is possible that these will turn out to be useful and cheap enough to be common devices in the home. My comment was what was likely. And if that does happen, it will be very far off (just as there were about 40 years between that IBM remark and when personal computers were a thing). In order for quantum computers to be common enough for personal use, two things need to happen: first, the computers will need to be small and cheap enough that they can be in fit in the home attached to a classical com
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Its hard to say, because you can't directly translate conventional algorithms to quantum ones, and it's hard to say what processes will readily find a home in quantum computing vs. which ones won't. But if quantum chips were "commonplace", you can bet that any CPU intensive tasks today (graphics, neutral nets, physics simulation, etc) would seek to find ways to offload as much effort to quantum algorithms as possible, where they can be found. Some tasks, such as searching unordered datasets or doing Foure

      • by Anonymous Coward

        One wonders if we'll have someday have a quantum accelerator card sitting next to the graphics card in our workstations.

      • Some tasks, such as searching unordered datasets...

        I have never understood how a device with a handful (50 in this case?) computing elements can do better than, say a 10Mbyte TCAM for a task like this. You can get a TCAM like that for under $100 at the chip level. It seems that Q tech that costs $15M has a long way to go.

        A computational problem like reversing a hash key makes a lot more sense.

        • > I have never understood how a device with a handful (50 in this case?) computing elements can do better

          A thousand cubits can do some really interesting things. If cubits follow Moore's law and double every two years, a thousand cubits is nine years away.

          Another nine years would be a million cubits. A million-cubit quantum computer may change our lives much as the classical CPU has done.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Getting rid of the rest of IBM's U.S. employees?

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @10:54AM (#53984917) Homepage

    One of the major issues is the need for actual empirical evidence that quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot with reasonable time constraints. Right now, the general consensus is that if we understand correctly the laws of physics this should be the case, but there are some people who are very prominent holdouts who are convinced that quantum computing will not scale. Gil Kalai is the most prominent https://gilkalai.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/why-quantum-computers-cannot-work-the-movie/ [wordpress.com]. It is likely that before any 50 bit quantum computer we'll have already answered this question. The most likely answer will be using boson sampling systems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boson_sampling [wikipedia.org] which in their simplest form give information about the behavior of photons when scattered in a simple way. Scott Aaronson and Alex Arkhipov showed that if a classical computer could efficiently duplicate boson sampling with only a small increase in time then some already existing conjectures in classical computational complexity had to be false. (In particular, the polynomial hierarchy would have to collapse and we're generally confident that isn't the case.) Boson sampling is much easier to implement than a universal quantum computer, although no one has any practical use of boson sampling at present.

    All of that said, the "a few years" in the article is critical- it isn't plausible that a 50 qubit universal system will be sold in 5 years. But 10 or 20 years are plausible. It also isn't completely clear how practically useful a 50 qubit system would be. At a few hundred qubits one is clearly in the realm of having direct practical applications, but 50 is sort of in a fuzzy range.

    • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

      Because if I understand quantum theory correctly, it both works, and doesn't. There is no measurement for a half binary state in a binary world of absolute on and off. I think pursuing analogue supercomputers might be a better place to start.

      A more reasonable argument would be "We need more money to continue milking this quantum cow that never produces anything."

      • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @11:11AM (#53985029) Homepage

        Because if I understand quantum theory correctly, it both works, and doesn't. There is no measurement for a half binary state in a binary world of absolute on and off.

        I'm not sure what you mean by "it" here, but pretty much every interpretation of this is wrong. In fact, measurement of quantum superpositions do return specific classical states, with a probability based on the superpositions.

        I think pursuing analogue supercomputers might be a better place to start.

        We have specific theorems about what analogue classical computers can do. See for example http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0196885888900048 [sciencedirect.com] and https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0502072 [arxiv.org]. In general, analog computers cannot do error correction and can when used to do optimization get easily stuck in local minima.

        A more reasonable argument would be "We need more money to continue milking this quantum cow that never produces anything."

        Quantum computing is still in its infancy and is best thought of as still in the basic research category. But even given that, there's been massive improvement in the last few years, both in terms of physical implementations (how many entangled qubits one can process) and in terms of understanding the broader theory. One major aspect where both the experimental and theoretical ends have seen major improvement is quantum error correction https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_error_correction [wikipedia.org].

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

        Because if I understand quantum theory correctly, it both works, and doesn't.

        If you're talking about superposition, or decoherence, then I don't think you've understood.

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @11:03AM (#53984973)
    But does it play Crysis?
  • At first I misread the headline as "50 Quid Universal Quantum Computer", but thinking about it, based on the speed of advance from Colossus to some of the cheap tablet computers there may be some people reading this who will be alive to see a £50 Universal Quantum Computer!
  • I was all ready to buy their 5 qubit universal quantum computer. I guess I'll wait for the new model now.
  • Oh wait...
    qasm = "IBMQASM 2.0;\n\ninclude \"qelib1.inc\";\nqreg q[5];\ncreg c[5];\nu2(-4*pi/3,2*pi) q[0];\nu2(-3*pi/2,2*pi) q[0];\nu3(-pi,0,-pi) q[0];\nu3(-pi,0,-pi/2) q[0];\nu2(pi,-pi/2) q[0];\nu3(-pi,0,-pi/2) q[0];\nmeasure q -> c;\n" device = 'simulator' hots = 1 experiment = api.runExperiment(qasm, device, shots)
  • by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @11:49AM (#53985253)
    What kind of problems can this particular computer solve, within a reasonable time (hours? minutes!) that would take an ordinary PC - or even a massive classic supercomputer - decades, or even millennia, to solve?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by quonset ( 4839537 )

      From my perspective, simulations. For example, a simulation showing the motion of water molecules when water is boiled. Not the current version where we have an approximation of the molecules as they are heated, but a simulation where each and every molecule and its motion within the mass is calculated and shown.

      How about tensile or compression strength of solids? Again, instead of an "object" being depicted we could depict how steel is deformed at the molecular level, including how impurities or additiv

      • Pretty much all of your examples are pure bullshit. Quantum computers are not magic. They are just better at solving some very specific problems compared to classical computers, and as far as I am aware your examples do not fall into any of those categories.
    • by John Smith ( 4340437 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:48PM (#53985663)
      Asymmetric crypto using Diffie-Hellman. It's a problem a quantum computer can solve easily (compared to a classical one at least.) It's a big thing on the horizon in cryptography, and I wouldn't be surprised if state actors already possess the tech, or will soon. Definitely important enough to land a spot on the weapons ban list, at least.
      • Asymmetric crypto using Diffie-Hellman. It's a problem a quantum computer can solve easily (compared to a classical one at least.) It's a big thing on the horizon in cryptography, and I wouldn't be surprised if state actors already possess the tech, or will soon. Definitely important enough to land a spot on the weapons ban list, at least.

        I wouldn't be surprised if state actors are pushing quantum crypto nonsense to scare people into abandoning actually secure systems.

        Thus far nobody knows if scalable quantum computers are even practically possible let alone any clue how to go about creating one.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Easy, the problem of life, the universe, and everything.

  • A Cat? or 50 Cats?

  • Yea right and 2017 is the year of a working 100 MW compact fusion reactor prototype from Lockheed Martin.

    IBM will not have a 50 qubit quantum computer in the next few years using a definition of the word "few" anyone recognizes.

  • Shouldn't they focus on making the virtual Q-bits as good as possible, then sell Q-bit computing as a service?

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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