Google has announced that it has made a significant breakthrough in quantum computing.
According to a study published in the US journal Nature, scientists from Google’s AI Quantum research institute have reached quantum supremacy.
This announcement involves utilising a quantum computer to carry out a calculation beyond the practical capabilities of current computers. Google claimed that the calculation would take the best current supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.
Although the calculation itself, a checking of the outputs from a quantum random-number generator, is not of great significance, the outcome is akin to the first computer being able to display the words “hello world”.
With this computing now proven to be significantly superior to current computing, the demonstrated speeds of such a task would enable quantum computers to be adopted in fields such as AI and machine learning, where algorithms need to process vast amounts of data in seconds.
Debate still rages, however, with competitor IBM suggesting that a similar task could be performed in 2.5 days if calibrated differently. Either way, however, the breakthrough demonstrates the applicability of quantum computers.
Google’s quantum computer used 54 qubits, a quantum bit that can exist in multiple states at once, unlike regular bits that can be either a 0 or a 1.
While experts suggest that quantum computing will still be a ways off, when applied to practical applications, cryptography is one area where the current announcement could be applied directly.