Google’s secret plan for quantum computer supremacy

September 2, 2016

UCSB Martinis Group’s superconducting five-qubit array (credit: Erik Lucero)

Google is developing a quantum computer that it believes will outperform the world’s top supercomputers, according to an August 31, 2016 New Scientist article, citing researchers.

Google’s ambitious goal is to achieve “quantum supremacy*”— which would be achieved when “quantum devices without error correction can perform a well-defined computational task beyond the capabilities of state-of-the-art classical computers,” as the authors of an arXiv paper** (open access) explain.

Google is testing a 20-qubit processor and is on target to have a working 49-qubit chip by the end of this year, according to a New Scientist update on June 22, 2017. So far, Google has only announced a modest nine qubit computer, but it has hired John M. Martinis at the University of California, Santa Barbara (see “Google partners with UC Santa Barbara team to build new superconductor-based quantum information processors” on KurzweilAI) to shoot for 49 qubits.

Success may prepare Google to construct something even bigger: a fully scalable machine,” says Ian Walmsley at the University of Oxford.

* Explained in this arXiv paper.

** The paper was updated on April 6, 2017. Co-authors are researchers at Google, UC Santa Barbara, NASA Ames Research Center, SGT Inc., and Centre for Quantum Software and Information, University of Technology Sydney.

UPDATE June 29, 2017 — includes updated qubit figure and link to updated New Scientist article.