Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

By Tiffany Trader

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in advancing its vision for the future of computing that it says will spur major advances in artificial intelligence and address humanities biggest challenges such as world hunger and climate change.

On Monday, Microsoft unveiled its custom Q# (Q-sharp) programming language as part of its effort to build an end-to-end topological quantum computing system suitable for commercial purposes. Along with a simulator for debugging and testing quantum code, Q# is included in Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit, first announced by the company in September.

“Designed ground up for quantum, Q# is the most approachable high-level programming language with a native type system for qubits, operators, and other abstractions,” says Microsoft. “It is fully integrated with Visual Studio, enabling a complete professional enterprise-grade development tooling system for the fastest path to quantum programming efficiency.”

Using the local quantum simulator on a standard laptop, developers will be able to simulate up to 30 logical qubits, according to Microsoft. For developers who want to go beyond that, Microsoft is offering an Azure-based simulator that supports simulations above 40 logical qubits.

The preview version of the development kit is available at no charge and comes with documentation, libraries and sample programs. Microsoft said that the kit will “give people the background they need to start playing around with aspects of computing that are unique to quantum systems, such as quantum teleportation.”

According to the company, programs created for the simulator will be transferable to a real topological machine, which Microsoft is in the process of developing. Microsoft’s approach to building a universal quantum computer is centered on the topological qubit, which it purports to be more stable than other qubit implementations. Most approaches to quantum computing require massive amounts of error correction such that a useful device could require about 10 physical qubits to achieve one logical qubit, potentially pushing up the number of physical qubits into the tens of thousands. Researchers propose that the topological qubit naturally resists decoherence and therefore requires less error correction. Conceivably this would make it possible to build a quantum machine with fewer physical qubits.

Competitors in the burgeoning space, notably D-Wave Systems, IBM, Google and Intel, are pursuing a variety of methods to build and scale their quantum technology with the goal of creating commercial machines with practical applications.

In the video below, Krysta Svore, principal researcher at Microsoft, demonstrates the new Microsoft Quantum Development Kit.

Lots of good info to get started here — https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/quantum/index?view=qsharp-preview

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