IBM is to let the public use one of its quantum processors. It’s a move designed to raise awareness as much as to be an immediate benefit.
The concept of quantum computing recently got mainstream coverage after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a concise explanation during a news conference:
A regular computer bit is either a one or a zero, on or off. A quantum state can be much more complex than that because, as we know, things can be particle and wave at the same time and the uncertainty around quantum states allows us to encode more information into a much smaller computer.
IBM’s Quantum Experience allows remote access to a processor made up of just five qubits, nowhere close to what would be thought of as a powerful computer. IBM has previously talked about using more than 100,000 qubits to make a general purpose machine, or what we’d know as a programmable computer.
Instead the emphasis is more on people accessing the processor to try out a different concept of processing rather than the power and speed available in some publicly accessible services.
Would-be users will need to request access rather than simply connecting instantly, but IBM says this is simply to prevent misuse with bots and that nobody will be refused access.
As well as promoting interest in quantum computing, IBM is also hoping to gain credibility through people who test the system (and fully understand the concepts) confirming that it works as expected.