NASA and Google, a match made in quantum technology

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Two of the most innovative organizations – one from private sector, one from public sector – are joining forces over a quantum computer.

Google and NASA recently announced they plan to operate a laboratory together called the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, to study how quantum physics can enhance machine learning and help tackle big data.

“We believe quantum computing may help solve some of the most challenging computer science problems, particularly in machine learning,” Hartmut Neven, director of engineering at Google, wrote in a recent blog post. “If we want to cure diseases, we need better models of how they develop. If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what’s happening to our climate. And if we want to build a more useful search engine, we need to better understand spoken questions and what’s on the web so you get the best answer.”

What separates a quantum computer from the one in your home office? While a classical computer use transistors to perform mathematical calculations and relies on bits, ones and zeros, as its most basic element, a quantum computer uses quantum bits. A quantum bit represents both ones and zeroes at the same time – allowing it to calculate functions a digital computer cannot by considering values simultaneously.

For NASA, this technology is especially beneficial for aerospace research – the study of the environment within Earth’s atmosphere. It will allow NASA to identify ways machine learning can improve agency efficiency, develop more accurate and robust models of the world to make better, more informed predictions. Quantum technology will help government in assessing climate change and developing environmental policies in response.

The project will also be useful for space exploration, which requires the use of vast amounts of data from inside and outside Earth’s atmosphere.

Google plans to use the new lab’s quantum computing to help its search engine and mobile apps better understand spoken questions.

The computer, which will be housed in Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, was purchased by Google and Universities Space Research Association, a nonprofit working closely with NASA.

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Agencies, Departments, Google, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
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