Is Google gently backing away from D-Wave?
That's one possible interpretation from this blog post, in which Mountain View tells the world it's going to add a quantum computer flavour to the Chocolate Factory.
Google's Quantum Artificial Intelligence team is to partner with the University of California Santa Barbara “to design and build new quantum information processors based on superconducting electronics”.
Earlier this year, the UCSB group led by John Martinis published work on a five-bit qubit array using a geometry they called Xmons, for which they claimed single-qubit gate fidelity of 99.2 per cent. That low error rate, they said at the time, provided “a clear path to scaling up to large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum circuits”.
That's what's attracted Google's attention: it says with its own hardware effort it'll be able to work on “new designs for quantum optimisation and inference processors”.
Google has also been a marquee customer for controversial Canadian quantum computer company D-Wave (along with Lockheed Martin). The Chocolate Factory has, apart from other things, been involved in the vexed question of whether or not D-Wave's machine is a quantum computer, or merely a good imitation. Martinis was a co-author of a paper that in 2013 gave D-Wave's approach a tick, as part of a group that believed it observed quantum annealing in the machine.
Google says “We will continue to collaborate with D-Wave scientists and to experiment with the 'Vesuvius' machine at NASA Ames which will be upgraded to a 1000 qubit 'Washington' processor.”
However, the idea that it might one day have Google as a competitor can hardly be comforting for D-Wave. ®