23 May 2014

Google’s Quantum Computing Playground turns your PC into a quantum computer

Google Chrome, Quantum Computing Playground IDE

Thanks to some ingenious engineers at Google, you can now turn your desktop PC into a quantum computer. Well, OK, not quite: You can simulate a quantum computer on your PC by running the Quantum Computing Playground web app for Chrome. The Playground allows you to run famous quantum algorithms, such as Grover’s, or even to write your own quantum script. Short of buying your own quantum computer which, despite what D-Wave says, you can’t this is the next best thing. If you’re looking to get in on the ground floor of the future of computing, this is your chance: If I had kids, I feel like it would be a disservice if I didn’t make them sit in front of the Playground for at least six hours a day to teach them the intricacies of quantum computing.

The Quantum Computing Playground is a Chrome Experiment (i.e. web app) that uses WebGL to simulate up to 22 qubits on your GPU. You get a basic IDE to write, compile, and run your code; some example algorithms (Grover’s, Shor’s); and a handy debugger and 3D quantum state visualization tool, so you can see what’s going on inside your little quantum computer. The programs are written in a language called QScript, which looks a lot like any other simple Bash-like scripting language.

Sadly, unless you have some programming experience, you’ll probably find it quite hard to actually use the Playground there’s no tutorial, and the comments in the examples aren’t exactly mega-detailed. The Help/About page has a few details about the inner workings of the simulator and QScript, but you’ll still need a pretty solid grounding in computer science or quantum computer theory. The fundamentals of quantum computing are beyond the scope of this story, but the video embedded above does a pretty good job of explaining why computing with quantum qubits (instead of normal binary bits) is so damn exciting.

D-Wave's new 512-qubit Vesuvius chip
D-Wave’s new 512-qubit Vesuvius chip. But does it really perform quantum computation?

Curiously for Google, the Playground uses the gate model of quantum computing, rather than the adiabatic quantum computing performed by the D-Wave quantum computer Google received last year. There has always been a lot of controversy over whether the D-Wave actually performs real quantum computing, especially when it only just beats a conventional, 6,000 times cheaper PC. Is the Playground’s use of real quantum gates a tacit admission by Google that it knows the D-Wave isn’t really quantum?

Courtesy Extremetech


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