D-Wave demonstrates quantum computer with Google image search

Published 13 November 2007

This week in Reno, Nevada, D-Wave demonstrates the first commercial quantum computer by using Google’s forthcoming search-by-image tool; problems remain

The world’s first commercial quantum computer is showing its stuff at the annual SC07 supercomputing conference being held this week in Reno, Nevada. Vancouver, British Columbia-based D-Wave Systems will demonstrate how quantum computers can perform Neven-based image-recognition tasks at speeds rivaling those of humans. It will do so by collaborating with Google on its (Google’s) forthcoming search-by-image capability, which Google acquired last year when it bought Neven Vision. “Our image-matching demonstration, the core of which is too difficult for traditional computers, can automatically extract information from photos — recognizing whether photos contain people, places or things, and then categorize them by visual similarity” said Geordie Rose, D-Wave founder and CEO. EE Times’s Colin Johnson writes that there are still problems here. Search-by-image and image matching run the gamut from the simple task of detecting whether or not a photo contains a person to the more complex task which would enable accurate classification of images by person, place, and thing. Even after crafting the algorithms so that they sidestep the most difficult image-recognition problems, they were still too slow to be deployed by Google. “We have been collaborating with Hartmut Neven, founder of the image-recognition company, Neven Vision, just after Google acquired it last year,” said Rose. “Neven’s original algorithms had to make many compromises on how it did things—since ordinary computers can’t do things the way the brain does. But we believe that our quantum computer algorithms are not all that different from the way the brain solves image-matching problems, so we were able to simplify Neven’s algorithms and get superior results.”

The current demonstration hardware crafted by D-Wave houses 28-qbits, compared with only 16-qbits in its original quantum computer. For the demonstration, the D-Wave quantum computer analyzes a 300-image data base, cataloging the similarities among photos. The results of that comparison are then displayed on a two-dimensional grid, where similar objects are grouped together. The current quantum computer — dubbed Orion — is fabricated out of the superconducting metal niobium using conventional lithography. After super-cooling it to near absolute zero, the qbits are able to maintain their quantum state throughout a calculation. Next, D-Wave plans to up the ante to a 512-qbit quantum computer that will be able to tackle giant image databases and other difficult combinatorial problems.

We hope to have our commercial architecture ready by mid-2008,” said Rose. “It will house enough qbits to begin solving mathematical problems that are intractable today. D-Wave’s current prototypes are not amenable to scaling up to hundred of qbits, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the last year, we feel that the last remaining technical obstacles to life-size quantum computers have been removed.”