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Google says it has developed a kind of quantum computer capable of identifying objects that appear in digital photos and videos. According to the company, the system outperforms the classical algorithms running across its current network of worldwide data centers. Hartmut Neven, Google technical lead manager for image recognition, recently unveiled the company's ongoing quantum computing work with a post to the company's research blog, saying he was due to demonstrate the technology at last week's Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Vancouver. "Many Google services we offer depend on sophisticated artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning or pattern recognition," Neven writes. "If one takes a closer look at such capabilities one realizes that they often require the solution of what mathematicians call hard combinatorial optimization problems.
Controversial Canadian company D-Wave, which has long made press claims about “commercial” quantum computing, can now claim to have sold a machine. Even while debate still rages over whether its technology truly constitutes quantum computing, the company says that Lockheed-Martin is going to buy its D-Wave One machine for a rumoured US$10 million. Exactly what the D-Wave One is, however, is still up in the air – as is the relationship between what its marketing department writes and what the company has actually built. For example, while the company describes the machine as offering 128 qubits of processing, other physicists say the D-Wave paper in Nature demonstrates only “non-classical effects” (ie, behaviours that appear to happen at a quantum scale) in an eight-qubit system. If the machine was truly performing quantum computing, this would still represent a great leap forward, since most current work on quantum computing is only able to demonstrate a few qubits at best.
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