|D-Wave 512-Qubit Bonded Processor – Recent Generation (Credit: D-Wave)|
D-Wave, the Canadian-based company that is the first to offer a commercial quantum computer, announced today that it’s sold its second $10 million D-Wave Two system. The contract is between the Universities Space Research Association and D-Wave. Google, USRA, and NASA will be collaborating on the use of the machine.
The system will be installed at a new lab, which will be located at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The computer is expected to go online in the third quarter of 2013. In addition to the sale, D-Wave will also be providing ongoing services such as maintenance. The company also expects to work closely with NASA, Google and USRA on the system.
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“I expect this to be a collaboration,” D-Wave’s U.S. President Bo Ewald told me. “Some of our scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists will be working at the Center.”
Prior to selecting the contract with D-Wave, the partnership first conducted a series of benchmarks on the 512-qubit D-Wave Two system, and found that its specifications were met or exceeded. The computer will be upgraded to a 2,048 qubit system once D-Wave has perfected that chip.
It’s important to note that the D-Wave system is not a general computer like your PC. Rather, it’s optimized to solve particular types of problem, and it likely uses quantum effects to solve those problems.
(Whether the D-Wave system uses a quantum process for its computation has been a matter of hot dispute in academia. However, recent research by a USC team working with Lockheed Martin LMT -0.05%‘s D-Wave system appears to show that there are, indeed, quantum effects happening with the system. Whether those quantum effects produce a “speedup” – that is, computation faster than classical methods – is still an open question.)
The laboratory at Ames will be using the D-Wave System for a number of applications, but they’ll be focused on improving algorithms that are used to improve machine learning and artificial intelligence. The lab will also investigate whether the system can optimize the search for planets outside of our solar system.
“We hope it helps researchers construct more efficient, effective models for everything from speech recognition, to web search, to protein folding,” Google said in a statement.
Under the terms of the agreement, 20% of the usage of the computer will be granted to University research. Research teams will compete to have their proposal use the machine selected. Once they’ve passed through that selection process, however, they’ll be granted use of the system free of charge.
For his part, Ewald is pretty excited about this step for the fledgling company. “For a company that’s just starting out, having Lockheed Martin as our first customer, then Google and NASA as number two? Well, that’s just a great way to start.”
Update: An earlier version of this article indicated that NASA had partnered to purchase the D-Wave System. A NASA spokesperson clarified that while NASA is partnered with Google and USRA to use the system, NASA is “not purchasing or leasing it”.