Subscribe

What happens when NASA partners with Google? A quantum computer

The NASA and Google partnership shows the potential of private and public entities working together in space. First product: The D-Wave 2X quantum computer .

  • close
    Rupak Biswas, director of exploration technology at NASA Ames research center, speaks in front of a D-Wave 2X quantum computer in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday.
    Stephen Lam/Reuters
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Solving some of the most complicated technological problems on or off this planet is what NASA and Google do best. Now, together, they are creating machines to exceed normal computing ability by 100 million times.

Google and D-Wave, a quantum-computing firm, are developing a new computer that can solve some types of complex problems that are next to impossible to solve on conventional computers at the NASA Ames campus in Mountain View, Calif., Bloomberg reported.

"We have already encountered problems we would like to solve that are unfeasible with conventional computers,” John Giannandrea, an engineering vice president at Google, said at a press conference Tuesday. “We want to understand the future that may lie ahead of us in non-conventional computing."

The D-Wave 2X quantum computer is about the size of a backyard shed, which means it is slightly smaller than a typical supercomputer, according to PC World.

The computer uses quantum mechanics to perform calculations. Unlike virtually all other computers, in which a single bit represents either a zero or a one at any given time, quantum computing relies on bits that can simultaneously represent both zero and one. And while three conventional bits can represent one of 23 , or 8, values at a time, three quantum bits, or qubits, can represent eight values at the same time. This allows quantum computers to perform in a second calculations which would take a single-core, conventional computer "10,000 years," according to Hartmut Neven, director of engineering at Google.

And while quantum computing won't necessarily speed up all of the calculations we rely upon computers for now, they are ideally suited for the types of optimization calculations important to NASA and Google.

The space agency hopes the new technology will be able to improve its simulation and encryption technology. Large-scale optimization problems, like air traffic control, could also benefit from qubits. Google relies on optimization calculations that would be well suited to quantum computing in many of its consumer-facing, artificial-intelligence technologies, like photo search and voice recognition. 

NASA and Google's partnership began 10 years ago, and this is not the only result. NASA has weighed in on Google projects, contributing to Google Earth, Google Sky, and, of course, Google Moon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Some projects have been small. Google Earth View trekked to NASA's Kennedy Space Center and took a week's worth of photos to give the public a view into the space center in August 2012.

Another collaboration yielded new drone technology. Google's drone experiments benefited from NASA's exemption on testing drones over the US, according to the Guardian. This would have been difficult under current federal drone regulations. By working together, the two organizations created innovative experiments in the skies.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK