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D-Wave's Orion 16-qubit quantum processor chip (Google's project uses a newer, more advanced 128-qubit chip dubbed "Chimera").  (Source: The Future of Things)

The full Orion quantum computer, complete with cooling and communications.  (Source: ZDNet)
The days of quantum computing are at hand

Quantum computing is regarded by many as a buzz word.  While the allure of using advanced physics phenomena like entanglement and superposition to solve ultra-complex problems almost instantly seems alluring, there's not yet been many concrete demonstrations of quantum computing in action, despite all the talk.

One company that actually has had the bravado to claim such a demonstration is Canadian firm D-Wave Systems, Inc. which is based out of Barnaby, British Columbia.  The company has developed what it claims to be working 16-qubit, 28-qubit, and 128-qubit quantum computer chips.  Each qubit is implemented with a magnetically coupling superconducting loop called rf-squid flux.  The company has fabricated some of these chips at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab’s microdevices lab in Pasadena and NASA scientists who saw the work firsthand back its credibility, despite widespread doubts in the research community.

Now D-Wave has received an even bigger endorsement, from the world's largest internet firm: Google.  Google manager Hartmut Neven announced in a blog post last week that his company had been working with D-Wave to develop quantum computers to power a search of still images in a database of images, video, and PDFs.  The project has been ongoing for three years according to Mr. Neven.

He writes, elaborating, "Over the past three years a team at Google has studied how problems such as recognizing an object in an image or learning to make an optimal decision based on example data can be made amenable to solution by quantum algorithms. The algorithms we employ are the quantum adiabatic algorithms discovered by Edward Farhi and collaborators at MIT. These algorithms promise to find higher quality solutions for optimization problems than obtainable with classical solvers."

The announcement corresponded with the first demonstration of the fruits of the partnership.  At the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NIPS 2009), Google showed off a working search that could locate images of cars in the database almost instantly after being first trained images of what a car looked like.  The search training was powered by D-Wave's new C4 Chimera chip and used the quantum adiabatic image algorithms.

In the search, Google first took 20,000 photographs -- half with cars in them and without.  In each picture they drew boxes around the cars (if there were any), identifying the "car" graphic element.  Next Google took a second set of 20,000 photos -- half with cars and half without.  They then put the second set to the quantum trained algorithm, which identified the cars faster than any traditional algorithm in Google's data farms.

Google was quite enthusiastic about the results.  Writes Mr. Neven, "There are still many open questions but in our experiments we observed that this detector performs better than those we had trained using classical solvers running on the computers we have in our data centers today. Besides progress in engineering synthetic intelligence we hope that improved mastery of quantum computing will also increase our appreciation for the structure of reality as described by the laws of quantum physics."

Could quantum computing be Google's trump card to keep down a resurgent Microsoft, which has been invigorated by its partnerships with Yahoo and Wolfram Alpha?  If the technology is as good as Google claims, the only real question seems to be how long it will take Google to make its deployment affordable.  D-Wave's past designs were complex beasts that needed to be chilled to almost 0 degrees Kelvin to operate properly. Still, Google and D-Wave have both come a long way in terms of quantum hardware and software, so we may not have to wait too long for quantum-computer-driven searches.

In next generation data centers, Google will likely use a mix of quantum computers alongside traditional von Neumann architecture servers.  This would allow the systems to serve diverse requests and use the best tool for the job for each search.

To get a taste of how Google's new search works and the mechanics that could drive the company's next-gen datacenters, read its conference paper, entitled, "NIPS 2009 Demonstration: Binary Classification using Hardware Implementation of Quantum Annealing" (PDF). 

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Quantum PORN!
By krichmond on 12/14/2009 10:22:06 AM , Rating: 2
that his company had been working with D-Wave to develop quantum computers to power a search of still images in a database of images, video, and PDFs

I can finally get my porn faster!

RE: Quantum PORN!
By Stuka on 12/14/2009 10:59:21 AM , Rating: 5
Not only that, with Google's system, if you search for images of Jenna Haze, you will only get images of Jenna Haze; regardless of what bot words they have on the page. We just need one die-hard volunteer to teach the billion dollar computer how to recognize a woman from various angles.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By GodisanAtheist on 12/14/2009 12:57:00 PM , Rating: 5
I will volunteer for this hard and exhaustive task, so the rest of you may live.

Remember me, never forget.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By PhoenixKnight on 12/14/2009 4:26:02 PM , Rating: 2
We shall erect a 50 foot solid gold statue in honor of your noble sacrifice.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By Bladen on 12/16/2009 5:22:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, a statue that is, quite aptly, shaped like a donga.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By Kyanzes on 12/14/2009 1:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
Right. But how would the system know if the person on the picture is the real one or a twin?

RE: Quantum PORN!
By neogrin on 12/14/2009 2:08:32 PM , Rating: 5
Right. But how would the system know if the person on the picture is the real one or a twin?

If they are nude and look like Jenna Haze...I'm not sure if I would care.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By AnnihilatorX on 12/14/2009 2:34:10 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Quantum PORN!
By teko on 12/14/2009 2:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
It's not designed to recognize faces. It's not even designed to tell one brand or similar model of car over another.

From the description, it seems to be able to distinguish objects by its shape.

RE: Quantum PORN!
By kufeifie on 12/15/2009 7:23:56 PM , Rating: 1
Christmas gifts come in to pick:
=====h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m====
jewerly $20
ugg boots$50
jordan shoes$32
h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m

RE: Quantum PORN!
By kufeifies on 12/16/2009 7:44:50 AM , Rating: 2
Christmas gifts come in to pick:
=====h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m====
jewerly $20
ugg boots$50
jordan shoes$32
h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m

RE: Quantum PORN!
By kufeifies on 12/16/2009 8:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
Christmas gifts come in to pick:
=====h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m====
jewerly $20
ugg boots$50
jordan shoes$32
h t t p : / / w w w . b h s h o e . c o m

The singularity
By Jansen on 12/14/2009 11:54:11 AM , Rating: 2
One step closer to the singularity...

RE: The singularity
By AnnihilatorX on 12/14/2009 6:20:54 PM , Rating: 2
And AI that transcends conciousness will take over the world, peacefully or not.

RE: The singularity
By Visual on 12/15/2009 3:33:10 AM , Rating: 2
With improvements of brain-computer interfaces, I find it more likely that a combination human-computer hybrid will be what "takes over".

RE: The singularity
By stilltrying on 12/14/2009 7:16:36 PM , Rating: 2

Read what Sun Microsystems ex CTO had to say about things like this

This is a serious thing with massive implications if a quantum computer ever truly came about.

The gravity of this...
By SublimeSimplicity on 12/14/2009 9:54:52 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think anyone on earth can fully grasp the gravity of this. Quantum computing becoming tangible and real, will have the largest impact on our lives moving forward as general purpose binary computers have.

And just like the day that the ENIAC came into existence passed without notice, this will too. Hopelessly unable comprehend it's impact, just like they were.

RE: The gravity of this...
By MozeeToby on 12/14/2009 11:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
People also underestimate how disruptive cheap quantum computers could be. Consumer grade encryption is going to have to advance very rapidly to stay ahead of quantum computer technology; that includes the encryption schemes used in everything from emails to bank transfers. Don't be suprised if 10 years from now you have a psuedo random number generator (used as a use once encryption pad) for online banking and purchases.

RE: The gravity of this...
By jimhsu on 12/14/2009 5:55:33 PM , Rating: 2
The significance (assuming it's not a joke announcement) is that fundamental problems have all of a sudden changed in order complexity, overnight. Things that support the multibillion dollar computer industry like factoring, finding logarithms, search (shown here), sorting, ...

For some reason it still seems like a joke.

Burnaby not Barnaby
By IvanAndreevich on 12/14/2009 1:44:01 PM , Rating: 2
It's a subdivision of greater Vancouver.

RE: Burnaby not Barnaby
By Uncle on 12/14/2009 2:12:58 PM , Rating: 2
You beat me to it. Your close, its not a subdivision but a Municipality with its own Mayor and Councilors. A subdivision would mean its still a part of Vancouver or Burnaby is classified as being a part of the Greater Vancouver area. Ah what the heck I'm nit picking today.

RE: Burnaby not Barnaby
By teko on 12/14/2009 2:31:12 PM , Rating: 2
By Josh7289 on 12/14/2009 7:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
That computer looks steampunk, which is really cool.

But, what's the significance of this news? And can someone explain quantum computers to me? I'm a CS major and it frustrates me that I don't get it...

RE: Steampunk
By jkresh on 12/14/2009 10:20:37 PM , Rating: 2
If you are interested in quantum computers there are plenty of webpages and more then a few books which go into detail about their potential. The main thing to consider is that quantum computers don't solve a wider scope of problems then classical computers, but they can solve a lot of the same problems significantly faster. For some algorithms the best classical solutions run in exponential time and there are polynomial time quantum algorithms.

some have postulated that with quantum, P = NP (which would be incredible) but in general that is not considered to be the case. Though there are some NP (not np complete as of yet) problems that quantum can solve in polynomial time.

Filthy language allowed on DT??????
By ggordonliddy on 12/14/2009 8:41:11 PM , Rating: 2

What the !#@$ are we coming to when this damn mother!@*%(#$ filth is allowed? Stay on topic, sir!

And worst of all, this is offensive to the female readership. Please think of _The Children_ before you post next time.

By ggordonliddy on 12/17/2009 12:10:26 AM , Rating: 2
True dat, brother G, true dat! Off'n da hizza yo!

Breaks me down and stuff, yo big-slice.

But why "Chimera"?
By neogrin on 12/14/2009 11:22:38 AM , Rating: 2
You know nothing with the name Chimera has ever ended well:

Mark my words, a year from now we'll have some sort of Quantum Chimera plague spread by Google Search.

But I think we can all agree that faster Porn searches out weighs any possibility of a plague.

Good for the cloud
By freshfeesh on 12/14/2009 2:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
Another significant aspect of this is that it will be relatively easy to fold this into a network of data centers when they're ready for prime time, but relatively hard to develop a home version (honey, I froze the kids!). With this do draw upon, the cloud will be able to offer unattainable power (for certain problems), besides the convenience that is its primary draw today. More reliance on the cloud, less dependence on the desktop. Everything is going according to plan.

By ImmortalSamurai on 12/16/2009 8:09:36 AM , Rating: 2
Ok I am from British Columbia, and I just wanted to know where the hell Barnaby, British Columbia is located. What's truely impressive about this article is not the quantum computing but the ultra secret new city in British Columbia no one has heard about. I guess I will just have to suffice with knowing the location of boring old BURNABY!!! British Columbia....oh well.

By Brodda Thep on 12/14/2009 10:39:46 AM , Rating: 1
The search was powered by D-Wave's new C4 Chimera chip and used the quantum adiabatic image algorithms.

This whole article makes it sound like they used a quantum computer to perform the search.

What they did do was use the quantum computer to learn what images are cars and what aren't. This is all done offline. They trained learner can then be uploaded to a classical computer to be ran. So, this was machine learning using quantum algorithm on a quantum computer. They aren't going to be using quantum computers in their data centers for answering queries.

At least not any time soon. Though it is still a significant step for quantum computation.

By Drag0nFire on 12/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: Mick
By GodisanAtheist on 12/14/2009 12:59:01 PM , Rating: 1
No kidding. Who the **** cares if this puts Google over MS. Talk about limiting the scope...

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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