Google’s quantum computer speeds up, but practical use is unclear

QUANTUM CHIP Google’s D-Wave 2X quantum computer runs on a processor similar to this one. The computer is getting faster, but it’s still unclear whether it will ever outperform regular computers at completing useful tasks.

Courtesy of D-Wave Systems Inc.

Google’s high-profile quantum computer is definitely getting better, a December 7 study posted at reveals. But the question remains of whether it will ever outperform traditional computers at practical applications such as speech recognition.

Since 2013, Google scientists have been testing a quantum computer purchased from the Canadian company D-Wave. The new study shows that the upgraded machine Google received earlier this year, the D-Wave 2X, uses quantum tricks to solve some problems 100 million times as fast as an Intel processor running a particular kind of algorithm. The catch is that the advantage disappears for many other types of problems or if the regular computer runs optimized algorithms, ETH Zurich scientists write in a response to the study.

Google director of engineering Hartmut Neven writes in a blog post that he is optimistic about translating his team’s recent progress into practical technology. But, he writes, “there is more work ahead.”

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