Google launches quantum processor, artificial intelligence project

The tech giant is partnering with UCSB to build quantum processors designed for applications in the field of artificial intelligence, poaching an acclaimed physicist in the process.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Google is set to launch a new research project in order to build quantum information processors for the field of artificial intelligence.

Hartmut Neven, Google's director of engineering, announced the initiative on the tech giant's research blog. The team, led by physicist John Martinis from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), will research and develop new quantum information processors based on superconducting electronics with the aim of expanding artificial intelligence technologies.

The Google executive said Martinis and his team at UCSB have made "great strides" in building superconducting quantum electronic components, and the researcher was also recently awarded the London Prize for his "pioneering advances in quantum control and quantum information processing."

While standard computers handle binary data -- which is expressed in zeroes and ones -- quantum computing surrounds the behavior of sub-atomic particles. Some theorists believe that qubits, which could act as both types of binary at the same time, may be able to exploit all combinations of bits at the same time, which could vastly improve the speed and power of computing.

The new team will be hosted by the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, a collaborative effort between Google, NASA Ames Research Center and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). However, Martinis will be an employee of both the university and Google, and his team will still work with UCSB students and have access to UCSB fabrication facilities.

Neven said:

"With an integrated hardware group the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimization and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture."

While Google will now set the team to building its own quantum processor designs, the company says it will continue to collaborate with D-Wave scientists and to experiment with the "Vesuvius" machine at NASA.

Going beyond autonomous, self-driving cars, Wi-Fi balloons and robots, Google has shown an increased interest in artificial over the past several years. In January, the tech giant acquired British artificial intelligence firm Deepmind for what is believed to be $400 million.

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