The world’s only commercially available quantum computer still fails to impress scientists

Quantum Computer maker D-Wave has upped the ante as far as quantum computers are concerned. With the recently announced D-Wave 2000Q, the computer effectively doubles the number of quantum bits (qubits) within the processor.

D-Wave makes the only commercially available quantum computers in the world today.

The machine is actually the fourth generation of quantum computer from D-Wave and Nature reports that it was largely built on researcher’s feedback.

Now quantum mechanics is itself a very complicated subject, one that even Albert Einstein struggled to wrap his head around the phenomena. D-Wave themselves haven’t figure out how to do it properly and the smartest people in the industry have termed D-Wave’s quantum computer a hack of sorts.

It’s a complicated subject to address, but essentially, D-Wave’s computer uses quantum tunnelling to perform computational tasks. The 2000 qubits on the processor are supposed to be entangled with each other for the whole process to work at maximum efficiency. D-Wave couldn’t achieve that on the older model and it’s unlikely that they did in the current model as well. They use a system where groups of 8 qubits are weakly entangled with other groups, but they’re strongly entangled within the same group.

Long story short, D-Wave is not a true quantum computer and as many researchers have pointed out, it’s not as fast as a regular computer for classical algorithms. It’s a step in the right direction, however.

Researchers do believe that D-Wave’s computer is good for “optimisation” tasks, and this is what they’ve been employing D-Wave’s computers for. They’ve also been conducting research on quantum computing using this computer.

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Nature describes the optimisation process as follows: “The [quantum] state evolves while maintaining its low energy such that when it eventually ‘collapses’, it should leave qubits in the best configuration for solving that problem.”

Hey, we told you it was complicated.

Theoretically, every possible solution is solved at once, leaving only the optimal solution in the end.

If you’re interested, ArsTechnica has a detailed explanation on the whole process.

The main difference between the 2000Q and the 1000Q, other than the increase in number of qubits, is that researchers now have more control over the “annealing” of the groups. Reportedly, this feature alone sped up a certain algorithm 1,000-fold. However, this performance boost is literally limited to that one algorithm. While researchers are happy to spend time with the device, and one company has even purchased a 2000Q for $15 million, the MIT Technology Review explains that for many, the D-Wave is more curiosity than computing powerhouse.

The ideal quantum computer will be so fast that it will be able to process algorithms that will be virtually impossible for even the most powerful traditional computer to solve.