Google says it has reached quantum supremacy, an important milestone towards the development of quantum computers. At least it seems to have. The announcement came in an article allegedly published on the NASA website before it was pulled, according to the The financial times which retrieved a copy before it disappeared. "As far as we know," said the Google newspaper, "this experiment marks the first calculation that can only be performed on a quantum processor."
Google's quantum computer was reported to be able to solve a calculation – demonstrating the randomness of numbers produced by any number generator – in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, which is the fastest traditional supercomputer in the world, Summit, about 10,000 years. This basically means that the calculation cannot be performed by a traditional computer, making Google the first to demonstrate quantum supremacy.
Despite reaching the milestone, it is likely that quantum computers capable of handling practical tasks will be away for years. After development, the computers are expected to have enormous implications for a variety of areas such as cryptography, chemistry, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Google expects the power of quantum computers to grow at a "double exponential speed," while traditional computers have long been linked to Moore's law, which saw power doubling about every 18 months.
Google previously said it hoped to achieve quantum supremacy by the end of 2017, but the 72-qubit system it developed proved too difficult to control. After this, Google developed a 53-qubit design called Sycamore, which was used to achieve the recent breakthrough.
However, the importance of the Google announcement was disputed by at least one competitor. Speak to the FT, IBM & # 39; s head of research, Dario Gil, said that Google claims to have achieved quantum supremacy "simply wrong". Gil said that the Google system is a specialized piece of hardware designed to solve a single problem, and that it is not a general purpose computer, as opposed to IBM's own work.
IBM is a fierce competitor of Google in the race to develop quantum computers. Earlier this year it unveiled the Q System One. Although it was still far from being a practical computer device, IBM's breakthrough was to make it much more reliable than previous quantum machines. Quantum computing chips are very unstable and sensitive to interference from heat and electricity. IBM's new design could minimize this interference, the company said.
Others were more optimistic about the development. "Google's recent update on achieving quantum supremacy is a remarkable milestone as we continue to improve the potential of quantum computing," said Jim Clake, director of quantum hardware at Intel, "we are working with the industry to advance all those areas to the true potential quantum computing, and although development is still at mile 1 of this marathon, we strongly believe in the potential of this technology. "
Daniel Lidar from the University of Southern California also praised the way the Google system reduced the problem of "crosstalk", where the qubits of a quantum computer disrupt each other. "[Google has] shown a path to scalable quantum computing," he told the FT, "Once you have a fully corrected quantum computer, the sky is the limit."
Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment.