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Microsoft is Leading Quantum Computer Race to Unlock Mysteries Around Us

The company is also building a community of quantum developers

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Microsoft
Microsoft launches e-commerce portal for Telangana's handloom weavers. Pixabay

For Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, quantum computing is among three technologies — the other two being Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Mixed Reality — that will soon disrupt the status quo, impacting our lives, communities and economies.

Believed to be a lot faster and more capable than the existing computing systems, quantum computing is set to herald the next wave of the digital revolution.

Researchers at Microsoft are busy writing the software to build a scalable computer that will help humanity unlock solutions to problems in areas such as clean energy, global warming, materials design and much more — including solving the mysteries of our universe.

If all goes well, Microsoft is confident about having one such scalable super machine within the next five years.

Based on quantum bits, the computer will not use classical bits but qubits which are not limited to binary and can have properties of 0 and 1 simultaneously, thus trying every possible number and sequence simultaneously to unlock vast amounts of data.

The current bits in computers store information as either 1 or 0, thus limiting the potential to make sense when faced with gigantic volumes of data.

Microsoft
A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

“We are looking at a five-year time-frame to build a quantum computer and what we need are roughly 100-200 good qubits with a low-error rate,” Krysta Svore, Principal Research Manager, Microsoft Quantum Computing, told IANS here.

Microsoft has also partnered with various stakeholders, including universities and governments, to realise the dream.

“We need a global effort for quantum research. There are quantum computers but they are small-scale ones and we are trying to push into finding better qubits,” added Svore, who leads the Microsoft Quantum-Redmond (QuArC) group.

Not just Microsoft but several other tech giants like IBM, Google and Intel have joined the race to build a scalable quantum computer.

Google has unveiled “Bristlecone” — a quantum computing chip with 72 qubits. IBM announced a 50-qubit processor last year.

A quantum computer can solve complex problems that would otherwise take billions of years for today’s computers to solve. This has massive implications for research in health care, energy, environmental systems, smart materials and more.

Microsoft, however, has an added advantage: Its quantum system can integrate seamlessly with its highly-secure Azure Cloud.

Over a period of time, Microsoft has built a team comprising some of the best minds in quantum physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

To achieve its goal of creating a scalable quantum computer, the company first started by creating the raw materials necessary to make “topological” quantum devices.

Microsoft is the only major tech company attempting to build “topological” qubits which aim to significantly reduce any interference at a sub-atomic level that might affect the machine. With this approach, the computational qubits will be “corrected” by other qubits.

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. Microsoft says it’s requiring its U.S. suppliers to offer their employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child. The company announced the new parental leave policy Thursday. VOA

The team then grew specialised nanowires that can be used to make qubits. The researchers created atomically thin conducting layers with exotic topological properties to realise a fully scalable quantum computer.

Microsoft today runs several labs around the world that specialise in the fabrication of quantum devices. According to the company, the infrastructure allows for the efficient mounting, wiring and cooling of these devices which, in turn, supports rapid prototyping, characterisation and exploration.

These devices operate at temperatures almost 200 times colder than the farthest reaches of outer space.

To help quantum developers build applications and algorithms, the company has also released the Quantum Development Kit — a set of enterprise-grade tools to write, debug and optimise quantum code.

The company is also building a community of quantum developers.

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“Nature computes using quantum, such as protein folding and several other complex mechanisms, and it does it quickly. If nature can do this, why can’t we?,” said Svore.

In his book “Hit Refresh”, Nadella has shed light on the ongoing activities and future plans to build new computational methods for programming the quantum computer, because a problem that would take today’s machines billions of years to solve could be completed by a quantum computer in minutes, hours or days. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft to Invest $1 Billion in Artificial Intelligence Start-Up Called OpenAI

The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation

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Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence, OpenAI
The multi-year partnership will jointly develop new supercomputing technologies on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. Pixabay

Microsoft on Monday announced to invest $1 billion in Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up called OpenAI. The multi-year partnership will jointly develop new supercomputing technologies on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.

The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation of AI applications, Microsoft said in a statement.

“By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI – while always keeping AI safety front and centre – so everyone can benefit,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said.

OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure, which it will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence.

Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence, OpenAI
Microsoft on Monday announced to invest $1 billion in Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up called OpenAI. Pixabay

Microsoft will also become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercialising new AI technologies.

The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies.

“The creation of AI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said.

Over the past decade, innovative applications of deep neural networks coupled with increasing computational power have led to continuous AI breakthroughs in areas such as vision, speech, language processing, translation, robotic control and even gaming.

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“OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, more personalized healthcare and education,” said the companies. (IANS)