Google-Led Consortium Buys B.C. Company’s Quantum Computer Technology for NASA Lab

An early generation D-Wave Systems 512-qubit processor

D-Wave’s quantum computing technology has been selected for an artificial intelligence project led by Google and NASA

D-Wave Systems Inc. announced last week that its quantum computers will be installed at the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, a U.S. machine learning project led by Google, NASA and the Universities Space Research Association. The lab will be housed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and will be operational by Q3 this year.

“[Google] wants to continue to push the limits of intelligence and cognition on these machines and they believe that this technology might be important for the future of this field,” says Geordie Rose, founder and CTO of D-Wave Systems.

D-Wave Systems’ D-Wave Two, touted as the world’s first commercial quantum computer will be available to researchers exploring machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that makes computers sort and analyse data on the basis of previous experience. It’s applications include language translation, image search and voice-command restrictions, and the algorithms that D-Wave Two is designed to compute can be done at speeds 3,600 times faster than conventional computers.

The selection confirms D-Wave Systems’ formerly contentious claim that it had pioneered the first quantum computer. The company’s flagship supercomputer passed a series of benchmark tests before it was purchased, and met or exceeded all required performance specifications, according to a Google press release.

D-Wave Systems’ computer chips work with a different form of mathematical modelling than ordinary computers; they quantum mechanics, not classical physics, to compute data. So far D-Wave Systems is the only commercial producer of quantum computers. Founded in 1999, D-Wave Systems’ commercial operations remain limited, its venture with the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab consortium will mark be its second commercial partnership since 2011.“We’re not a vendor of boxes, this business is more about exploring the capabilities of various new and exotic technologies,” says Rose.

Lockheed Martin, the aerospace and defence giant based in Bethesda, Maryland, purchased a quantum computer from D-Wave Systems in 2011 and installed it at the Quantum Computation Center at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. D-Wave Systems’ investors include Vancouver’s Growthworks, Goldman Sachs and Bezos Expeditions, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal venture capital fund.

“The future looks very bright but we’re still in very early stages,” says Rose, “I’m very happy that we’ve been able gain this sort of traction.”