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Google and NASA Start Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab

By Wesley Fenlon

Google will soon be using cutting-edge quantum computing to develop cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

Back in 2011, we wrote about why you should and shouldn't be excited for quantum computers, extremely complex computers that can handle algorithms traditional transistor-based computers aren't capable of. Here's another reason to be excited for quantum computing: Google and NASA have partnered up to run a laboratory studying artificial intelligence that will use a quantum computer.

"The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, as the entity is called, will focus on machine learning, which is the way computers take note of patterns of information to improve their output," writes The New York Times. "Personalized Internet search and predictions of traffic congestion based on GPS data are examples of machine learning. The field is particularly important for things like facial or voice recognition, biological behavior, or the management of very large and complex systems."

Photo credit: D-Wave

The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab will open in the fall of this year with a quantum computer from D-Wave. Commercial quantum computing is a brand new field--D-Wave just sold its first quantum computer to Lockheed this year--and we could see some amazing results from quantum computing power in the next few years.

Tests last year found that a D-Wave quantum computer was 3600 times faster than a supercomputer. What does that mean, exactly? The Times does a good job of breaking down why quantum computers are so effective:

"The D-Wave computer works by framing complex problems in terms of optimal outcomes. The classic example of this type of problem is figuring out the most efficient way a traveling salesman can visit 10 customers, but real-world problems now include hundreds of such variables and contingencies. D-Wave’s machine frames the problem in terms of energy states, and uses quantum physics to rapidly determine an outcome that satisfies the variables with the least use of energy.

" 'The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,' said Colin Williams, D-Wave’s director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.' "

Photo Credit D-Wave

D-Wave plans for its quantum computers to eventually be connected into cloud computing systems, where they can solve the hardest calculation-intensive problems more quickly than the arrays of transistor-based servers. Google hasn't said exactly what it has in store for its machine. But with the company's research into voice recognition and Google Now, which ideally presents users with information before they ask for it, it's easy to imagine some impressive implementations of artificial intelligence in Google's products.