Meet the Aussie Startup That Wants to Be the Intel of Quantum Computing

Meet the Aussie Startup That Wants to Be the Intel of Quantum Computing

Quantum computers are likely to be one of the next big leaps in data processing, scaling extremely sophisticated and fast computers down into much smaller computational hardware – however, most quantum systems are held back by large cooling systems that are necessary for the machines to operate. That’s where Quantum Brilliance comes in, billing itself as the ‘Intel or Nvidia of quantum computing’.

We’ve written about Quantum Brilliance before, when the startup snagged $26 million in cash from a pool of funding, contributors of which included the Victorian government and Main Sequence (the venture capital spin-off of the CSIRO). What makes Quantum Brilliance so special is that the startup is compressing quantum computers, which are typically really big (almost room-sized) into modern PC-sized boxes, by using diamond-based devices instead of room-scale cooling systems.

And just recently, the startup achieved a breakthrough and world first – the team managed to take a quantum computer outside of a lab environment, configure it to be robust enough to sit in the same room next to a supercomputer, and have the two systems share data and work in tandem towards solving a problem.

Here’s why that’s a big deal.

How quantum computing may enter your everyday life

“The key thing was running a first job where someone could access the supercomputer, and then the supercomputer goes: ‘oh, this is something that has a quantum component. I’m going to run stuff on the supercomputer, I’m going to send that part of the job then to the quantum computer, get the result back, and then feed it back into subsequent supercomputing,’” Quantum Brilliance CTO and co-founder Doctor Andrew Horsley told Gizmodo Australia.

“Taking it out of the lab, and it’s not requiring extra infrastructure to run, you just plug it in and it’s working. It’s not quite a quantum computer in your laptop, but it’s still a big demonstration for such an early stage of the tech that we’ve got it in what’s really quite an unfriendly environment. A lot of noise fans, a lot of weird electromagnetic noise.”

While quantum computers exploit what Horsley calls a “physical phenomena” that today’s computers don’t, that of quantum mechanics and the ability to harness quantum physics in processing data, he explained to me that quantum computers will not replace the computers of today entirely. It’s more about replacing specific processes or enhancing them with faster, more powerful technology– and that’s what underlines this latest breakthrough.

quantum brilliance
From left to right: Quantum Brilliance CSO Doctor Marcus Doherty, CTO Doctor Andrew Horsley and CEO Mark Luo. Image: Quantum Brilliance

“We want to make quantum an everyday technology,” Horsley said. “Ultimately, you open up your laptop, and there’s a Quantum Brilliance sticker on it, as well as whatever your CPU is.”

Just for clarity, usually when you buy a new PC or laptop, it’ll come with a sticker (or stickers) somewhere on the casing, indicating your CPU or GPU. It’s advertising, but in this context, it’s more important than that – it’s Horsley’s way of saying that your everyday computer may, one day, include a component that leverages quantum technology, because of this achievement.

What will that mean for the average user? Well, though we know quantum computers can offer much more computational power than modern computers, the reality is that we just don’t know yet – but we have a good idea.

“So an example there is, at the moment, for a robot to understand human speech, it’s very hard. At the moment you can use big centralised computers, but to actually have it, to cram enough classical computers into a robot or a satellite, you actually don’t have enough space to do that,” Horsley said.

“What quantum can do is give you enough computing density to cram it into the size, weight and power consumption budget of something at the edge. So, your laptop, a robot or a self-driving car, so that it’s actually smart enough to actually understand you and interface with you in a more natural way.”

Horsley’s analogy, coming back to the ‘physical phenomena’, is that it’s similar to when electricity was first harnessed and completely changed the world and how we did things in the 19th Century. The idea that quantum computing could make systems of all types smarter, faster and more powerful, even at the consumer level, is attractive, to say the least.

“We won’t know what the applications are right now. It’s kind of like standing in the 1950s, imagining what you’d do with a smartphone. But we can think about a few of these early ones, and it’s enough to get excited about,” Horsley added.

Where’s Quantum Brilliance heading?

Quantum Brilliance’s focus going forward is to keep compressing quantum technology and integrating it with modern computers, working with industry partners like the Pawsey Supercomputer Centre in Perth and Nvidia.

Horsley said the startup has a “head start” on making the tech smaller because of the earlier mentioned diamond-based cooling systems. Large helium-based or laser-assisted cooling systems aren’t necessary, allowing the tech to keep being scaled down – which is a crucial point, because to make sure quantum computers function as optimally as possible, their environments need to be exceptionally controlled.

The startup is gearing up for a “quantum future”, where it’s everyday tech – and this latest achievement is one of the first steps towards this vision.

“This is showing that quantum computing can be made simple and robust enough that you can take it out of a lab and put it next to a supercomputer and have them naturally start talking to each other… It’s that first ‘hello world’ moment that shows the progress that we’re making in understanding the software environment and developing robust hardware that we can start bringing quantum ultimately to consumers,” Horsley said.

As written above, it’s still early days for quantum computing, but I’m certainly warming to the idea of having a ‘Quantum Inside’ sticker on the side of my PC.

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