Intel announced on Tuesday it has delivered a quantum computing test chip, another step toward a future of ultra-fast processors. The company, which is partnering with QuTech on the advanced component, has produced an unboxing video. But unlike most videos of the genre that show YouTubers unwrapping expensive smartphones, here two company representatives unveil what could potentially become the future of computers.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, though. Intel’s chip supports 17 qubits, and it’s a crucial step toward perfecting the quantum computer. But right now, qubits are rather unstable, requiring them to operate at a temperature 250 times colder than deep space. The new chip reduces radio frequency between the qubits compared to previous generations, but it’s going to be a while before a quantum computer is built that’s demonstrably better than a regular computer, a step known as “quantum supremacy”.
While ordinary computers store information in bits represented as either zeros or ones — on and off states — quantum computers can take advantage of a third position between the two to store information in qubits. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it means that 50 qubits can represent 10,000,000,000,000,000 numbers, a scale a regular computer would need petabytes of data to hold.
“With this test chip, we’ll focus on connecting, controlling and measuring multiple, entangled qubits towards an error correction scheme and a logical qubit,” said professor Leo DiCarlo of QuTech. “This work will allow us to uncover new insights in quantum computing that will shape the next stage of development.”
Quantum computing could enable highly-advanced artificial intelligence, as it could solve mazes and other logic puzzles in the blink of an eye. Yuri van Geest, founder of SingularityU in the Netherlands and an expert in the singularity, said at Cologne’s Pirate Summit that by 2018 a quantum computer will be built that has the same computational power as every computer on earth today combined.
“We are entering a new era on this planet,” Geest said. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.”
Google, which is working on a similar project, believes it could reach quamtum supremacy in a matter of months. Intel, which has been working with QuTech since 2015, will use this test chip as a stepping stone to a more stable system.
“Our quantum research has progressed to the point where our partner QuTech is simulating quantum algorithm workloads, and Intel is fabricating new qubit test chips on a regular basis in our leading-edge manufacturing facilities,” said Dr. Michael Mayberry, corporate vice president and managing director of Intel Labs. “Intel’s expertise in fabrication, control electronics and architecture sets us apart and will serve us well as we venture into new computing paradigms, from neuromorphic to quantum computing.”
Watch the unboxing video here:
If you liked this article, check out this video of a quantum computer the size of a soccer field.