Canadian company D-Wave Systems demonstrated earlier this
week what it claims is the
first commercial quantum computer, but scientists from the computing community
are skeptical of D-Wave’s claims.
Specifically, the main criticism of D-Wave’s claims is that
the company has yet to submit its findings for peer review—a common practice
amongst the science community to gain acceptance of one’s work. "Until we
see more actual measurements, it's hard to know whether they succeeded or
not," said Phil
Kuekes, a computer architect in the Quantum Science Research Group at
Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP Labs.
Although D-Wave’s origins are closely tied to the University
of British Columbia, it is now a privately held company that may find it in its
best interests to keep the details of the Orion quantum computer within the
walls of its headquarters. In fact, the first public demonstration of the Orion
was to an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., but
the actual computer hardware remained at its home base in Canada. The demonstration
took place via a live video feed.
Lieven Vandersypen, an associate professor at Delft
his thoughts on D-Wave’s announcement: “First, it's quite remarkable that
they have persuaded investors to put serious money in their enterprise at such
an early stage,” he said, referring to the US$14 million D-Wave raised May
2006. “It sounds like they have a clear vision of where quantum computing is
going, and how to approach it. Whether it is realistic, time will tell.”
The lack of scientific publication was also something
Vandersypen pointed to, saying, “Until now, D-Wave hasn't published any major
advances or breakthroughs in the scientific literature. With respect to their
announcement, there is little detailed information available to support, and
thus judge, the validity of the claims (as would be the case in a scientific
To further complicate matters, an examination into the
technical details of Orion reveals that it is not a true quantum computer in
the traditional sense of the term. D-Wave Chief Executive Herb Martin said that
the Orion is not a true quantum computer, but rather a special-purpose machine
that uses quantum mechanics to solve problems.
"Users don't care about quantum computing—users care
about application acceleration. That's our thrust," Martin said to the Associated Press. "A general
purpose quantum computer is a waste of time. You could spend hundreds of
billions of dollars on it" and not create a working computer.
D-Wave detailed in its original
announcement that it is combining design ideas from silicon computing and
applying them to quantum computing. While it may not be a true quantum computer,
Martin said that the evidence the company has indicates that the device is
performing quantum computations.