Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

By Tiffany Trader

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it’s early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open question. The latest geo-region to throw its hat in the quantum computing ring is Japan. The nation will begin offering public access to a prototype quantum device over the internet for free starting Nov. 27 at https://qnncloud.com.

As reported by Japanese news outlets this week, Tokyo-based NTT along with the National Institute of Informatics and the University of Tokyo are working on a quantum computing device that exploits the properties of light. Backed with state investment, the quantum neural network (QNN) prototype is reported to be capable of prolonged operation at room temperature. The system consists of a 1km long optical fiber loop, a special optical amplifier called a PSA, and an FPGA. (See video below for a detailed explanation of how it all works.)

Source: NTT (YouTube)

The implementation, a type of Ising machine, is a departure from superconducting quantum efforts which require exotic and expensive cooling apparatus. NTT’s prototype draws just 1kW, close to an ordinary household appliance.

Unlike efforts from Google and IBM, this won’t be a universal quantum computer. The goal of the QNN is to find solutions to combinatorial optimization problems thousands of times faster than classical computers are able to (this is what Ising machines are theorized to excel at). Potential real-world use cases include easing traffic congestion, optimizing smart phone communications, and drug discovery. Project stakeholders are aiming to commercialize the system by March 2020 and are seeking participation from the community for testing and software development purposes.

“We will seek to further improve the prototype so that the quantum computer can tackle problems with near-infinite combinations that are difficult to solve, even by modern computers at high speed,” said project head Stanford University Professor Emeritus Yoshihisa Yamamoto.

Japan has quietly been building its quantum research portfolio and will kick off a ten-year, 30 billion yen ($267 million) quantum research program in April 2018.

For further background, see the Oct. 2016, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) announcement here: http://www.jst.go.jp/pr/announce/20161021/index.html

The Japanese news portal Nikkei has photos of the unveiling here.

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