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Quantum computer flexes capability

Posted: 02 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:quantum computer? image recognition? hardware?

D-Wave's Orion quantum computer chip is fabricated out of superconducting niobium.

The world's first commercial quantum computer strutted its stuff in Reno, Nevada at the SC07 supercomputing conference. D-Wave Systems Inc. collaborated with Google to demonstrate how quantum computers can perform image recognition tasks at speeds rivaling human capabilities. The Neven-based image recognition and search-by-image capability was acquired by Google when it bought Neven Vision in 2006.

"Our image-matching demonstration, the core of which is too difficult for traditional computers, can automatically extract information from photos-recognizing whether photos contain people, places or things-and then categorize the image elements by visual similarity," said Geordie Rose, D-Wave founder and CEO.

Google acquired Neven Vision for its expertise in recognizing similarities among photos. Among the image-recognition tasks, the simplest would include determining whether a photo contains a person; the most complex would be accurate classification of images by person, place and thing. Even after tuning the algorithms so that they sidestepped the most difficult image-recognition problems, however, they remained too slow for practical deployment in the Google application.

"We have been collaborating with Hartmut Neven, founder of Neven Vision, since Google acquired it," said Rose. "Neven's original algorithms had to make many compromises on how they did things, since ordinary computers can't do things the way the brain does. But we believe that our quantum computer algorithms are not all that different from the way the brain solves image-matching problems, so we were able to simplify Neven's algorithms and get superior results."

The demonstration hardware crafted by D-Wave houses 28qbits, compared with only 16qbits in its original quantum computer. For the demonstration, the D-Wave quantum computer analyzes a 300-image database, cataloging the similarities among photos. The results of that comparison are then displayed on a two-dimensional grid, with similar objects grouped together.

The current quantum computer, dubbed Orion, is fabricated out of the superconducting metal niobium using conventional lithography. After supercooling to near absolute zero, the qbits are able to maintain their quantum state throughout a calculation. Next, D-Wave plans to up the ante to a 512qbit quantum computer that will tackle giant image databases and other difficult combinatorial problems.

"We hope to have our commercial architecture ready by mid-2008," said Rose. "It will house enough qbits to begin solving mathematical problems that are intractable today. D-Wave's current prototypes are not amenable to scaling up to hundreds of qbits, but with the knowledge we've gained over the last year, we feel that the last remaining technical obstacles to life-size quantum computers have been removed."

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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