Friday, September 7, 2018

Rigetti announces its hybrid quantum computing platform — and a $1M prize

Rigetti, a quantum computing startup that is challenging the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Google in this nascent space, today at our TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 event announced the launch of its new hybrid quantum computing platform.

While Rigetti already offered API access to its quantum computing platform, this new service, dubbed Quantum Cloud Services (QCS), offers a combination of a cloud-based classical computer, its Forest development platform and access to Rigetti’s quantum backends. Thanks to this, developers will be able to write and test their algorithms significantly faster than with the company’s previous approach.

In addition to the new platform, which is now in private testing, Rigetti also announced a $1 million prize for the first team that manages to show quantum advantage on this hybrid platform. Quantum advantage, at least according to Rigetti’s definition, is the milestone where a quantum system will be able to solve a real problem that is beyond the reach of classical computers. The company plans to announce more details around this prize at the end of October.

As Rigetti founder and CEO Chad Rigetti told me, the reason the hybrid approach is faster is simply because the two systems are closely integrated — and you will likely always need a classical computer in parallel with a quantum computer for solving virtually any problem. And the company expects that this hybrid approach — and likely the 128-qubit machine that Rigetti plans to launch next year — will allow for running an algorithm that demonstrates quantum advantage. The current API Rigetti makes available to developers features 8-qubit and 19-qubit machines. Those machines are nowhere near powerful enough to show quantum advantage, but they do give developers the ability to start experimenting with using quantum computers.

On the old platform, Rigetti also noted, the kind of loops you need to run to use the quantum machine for machine learning, for example, had a latency on the order of a second or more. “A lot of these algorithms require thousands and tens of thousands of iterations,” Rigetti said. “And now we have reduced this down to the order of milliseconds.”

Rigetti also today announced that it is partnering with a number of leading quantum computing startups (the kind that work on the software, not the hardware side of this ecosystem). These startups, including Entropica Labs, Horizon Quantum Computing, OTI Lumionics, ProteinQure, QC Ware and Riverlane Research, will build and distribute the applications through the Rigetti QCS platform.

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