Quantum computing is often heralded as the next big step in computers but so far our technology hasn't enabled the creation of a true quantum computer. Google hopes to change this by designing and building its own computer chips. Previously, the company's Quantum Artificial Intelligence team shared a D-Wave kinda-quantum computer with NASA but now the search giant has bigger plans.
Rather than start from scratch, Google will absorb UC Santa Barbara’s quantum computing group, which recently created a superconducting five-qubit array that shows promise for scaling up to larger, commercial systems. Google, probably just behind IBM, now appears to be one of quantum computing’s largest commercial interests.
As you may know, Google has been researching potential applications of quantum computing since at least May 2013, when it bought a D-Wave quantum annealing computer with NASA. The Vesuvius chip inside the D-Wave system is kind of quantum, but not truly quantum in the sense that most scientists and physicists would describe a quantum computer. Benchmarks have shown that the D-Wave system only provides small speed-ups under very specific workloads — and in some cases, just your standard desktop PC might be faster than the D-Wave. We’re not saying that Google was hoodwinked, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s now investing in a very different area of quantum computing.