IBM says it has built a quantum processor that it says cannot be simulated by a classical computer.
If true, the processor would represent a major breakthrough in quantum computing, which its proponents say could lead to radical changes in how we are able to deal with information.
The company says that the quantum processor is so capable that to simulate its capabilities with a traditional computer, one would require more bits than there are atoms in every person in existence.
Quantum computers have long been heralded as the future of computing. But actually using them practically has proven difficult, with reliable and large-scale examples of the technology hard to build.
IBM says it has made a step forward in doing so by creating a new design that puts components on different layers, and the qubits – the quantum version of bits – all on their own layer, according to Engadget, which reported the breakthrough.
Some details are still not clear about the Eagle processor. It says that it is still in an experimental stage and that it is being explored for now.
The company has refused to announce how it performs on measures of “quantum volume”, for instance – a metric first introduced by IBM to more easily compare the performance of different quantum systems. That makes it difficult to say exactly how capable the processor is, and how it might compare with others.
IBM has also resisted hailing its breakthrough as an example of “quantum supremacy”, a milestone that refers to the moment when a quantum computer is able to do calculations that a classical computer is not. Instead, it says the system is a step towards that.
Google and IBM had a public spat in 2019 when Google claimed it had reached quantum supremacy in a widely hailed breakthrough. IBM pointed out, however, that it was an “indefensible” use of the phrase since the Google computer could only solve one specific equation.
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