October 8, 2018
Canadian company D-Wave Systems launched the Leap Quantum Application Environment, a web portal that aims to offer public access to quantum computing for “any and all developers.” D-Wave R&D executive vice president/chief product officer Alan Baratz says Leap will provide such developers “immediate, free, real time access to a live quantum computer.” Quantum computing, which is expected to dramatically improve the ability to manipulate and analyze data, has thus far had a very limited user base.
Engadget reports that, “right now quantum computers are still pretty rare and often require a substantial knowledge of quantum physics in order to program and operate,” which means that only “large corporations and academic institutions like Google, Intel, VW, and Cambridge University” have had access to them.
Baratz said that, “anybody with an email address, basic Python programming know-how, familiarity with Ocean (open source software suite) and a desire to play around with the future of computing can sign up for the program.” Leap will also offer “articles and educational materials for neophyte users as well as demos for factoring and social network analysis operations, as well as quantum materials simulations.”
“This is more than just a big front end for the quantum computer,” said Baratz, who added that other resources include “a wide range of developer tools and open source code for users to exploit, as well as a community page where users can seek or offer assistance to one another and an extensive help section.”
“Everything we do in the tools arena is open source because we want developers helping us to enhance and evolve and improve the tools in addition to the work that we continue to do,” he added.
D-Wave senior vice president of marketing Jennifer Houston emphasized the importance of “the learning and teaching tools and … the community and help.” “When you add all those things together, you start actually getting this robust environment for quantum applications,” she said.
The Leap portal does have limitations: “every user gets just one minute a month of access time,” which isn’t as drastic as it seems, given that “even the most computationally intensive QC programs typically take between 15-250 milliseconds, [meaning] that minute will get you between 200 and 4,000 runs per month on a D-Wave 2000Q quantum computer.”
Developers who need more time can pay for a subscription. Houston reports that the company had 80 early applications (from the likes of Google, NASA and Los Alamos National Lab), when it went to a user conference and added more than 100 applications from a range of users, including quantum chemical applications and “a company in Japan called Recruit that is using it to optimize hotel ads.”
Now that Leap is open to the public, Houston said she expects a skyrocketing number of applications. According to Baratz, “we are not more than two years away from seeing very high value applications on this.”