Quantum computing holds out the promise of actual parallel processing.
While your smart device of today may appear to be multi-tasking with GPS, text messaging and music streaming all running at once, in reality, it’s cycling between these tasks, serially.
Computers have been operating this way since the computer age began.
Quantum computers, on the other hand, would address simultaneity from the ground up. They would perform many operations in parallel and be well-suited to machine learning where there’s a need to search instantly through a myriad of possibilities and choose the best solution.
One of the more controversial aspects of quantum computing’s massive potential is to render today’s data encryption technologies, obsolete.
(For a surprisingly easy-to-follow explanation of the difference between classical computing versus quantum computing, see this 1999 article by Lov K. Grover, inventor of what may be the fastest possible search algorithm that could run on a quantum computer.)
One focus of the lab will be to advance machine learning. Google Director of Engineering, Hartmut Neven blogs:
Machine learning is all about building better models of the world to make more accurate predictions.
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.
The new lab will be outfitted with a D-Wave Systems quantum computer. NASA, Google, and Universities Space Research Association (USRA) plan to invite researchers worldwide to share time on the quantum computer starting in Q3 2013.
The lab will serve as an incubator of practical solutions that require quantum computing. Neven goes so far as to write:
We actually think quantum machine learning may provide the most creative problem-solving process under the known laws of physics.