Quantum Supercomputing Facility Brings NASA And Google Together
May 19, 2013

NASA, Google To Open Joint Quantum Supercomputing Facility In California

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Google and NASA are joining forces to create a new research laboratory that will use a quantum supercomputer to study artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to various media reports.

The Mountain View, California-based computing company and the US space agency´s new Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab will be hosted at the Ames Research Center in California and will include a quantum supercomputer supplied by British Columbian firm D-Wave Systems, according to Matt Brian of The Verge.

The two agencies are also planning to share access to the $15 million machine with other scientists via the Universities Space Research Agency (USRA), BBC News added. The supercomputer operates using the D-Wave Two processor, which reportedly uses a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling to examine all possible solutions to a mathematical problem at the same time and select the best one in less than a second.

“Google believes quantum computing might help it improve its Web search and speech recognition technology,” MIT Technology Review writer Charles Choi explained. “University researchers might use it to devise better models of disease and climate, among many other possibilities.”

In fact, according to the New York Times, Google researchers have already developed machine-learning algorithms that are usable within the supercomputer. One is capable of quickly recognizing data and conserving mobile device power, while a second showed promise at selecting and deleting bad or mislabeled data.

“Machine learning is highly difficult,” Hartmut Neven, the tech giant´s Director of Engineering, said in a blog post Thursday. “As an analogy, consider what it takes to architect a house. You´re balancing lots of constraints — budget, usage requirements, space limitations, etc. — but still trying to create the most beautiful house you can. A creative architect will find a great solution. Mathematically speaking the architect is solving an optimization problem and creativity can be thought of as the ability to come up with a good solution given an objective and constraints.”

As for NASA, D-Wave´s director of business development and strategic partnerships Colin Williams told Choi, “Computers play a much bigger role within NASA missions than most people realize“¦ Examples today include using supercomputers to model space weather, simulate planetary atmospheres, explore magnetohydrodynamics, mimic galactic collisions, simulate hypersonic vehicles, and analyze large amounts of mission data.”

The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab is the second research firm to purchase a quantum computer from D-Wave, according to Nature´s Nicola Jones. In 2011, Lockheed Martin purchased a machine from the Canadian company and installed it at the University of Southern California (USC) Quantum Computation Center. Both quantum computing centers have earmarked 20 percent of computer time for use by outside researchers, Jones added.

“We´ve learned some useful principles: e.g., you get the best results not with pure quantum computing, but by mixing quantum and classical computing,” Neven said. “Can we move these ideas from theory to practice, building real solutions on quantum hardware? Answering this question is what the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab is for.”

“We hope it helps researchers construct more efficient and more accurate models for everything from speech recognition, to web search, to protein folding,” he added. “We actually think quantum machine learning may provide the most creative problem-solving process under the known laws of physics. We´re excited to get started with NASA Ames, D-Wave, the USRA, and scientists from around the world.”