IBM is making a very special type of computer, called a quantum computer, available to the public on Wednesday. While the computer is primarily aimed at scientists and researchers, the service will also be available to the general public.
IBM calls the service the IBM Quantum Experience, wherein users can design and run their own algorithms on IBM's quantum computer through a cloud service. The quantum processors are reportedly located at IBM's Quantum Lab over at the Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, in the stat of New York in the U.S.
A quantum computer is different from a regular computer, or a digital computer, in the way it computes. While a regular computer's smallest unit of data, a binary digit or bit, is either 1 or 0 (on or off), in a quantum computer, the smallest unit of data, a cubit, can be 1, 0, both, something in between or mysterious zero/one state called an entanglement.
While a regular computer sequences the 1s and 0s to solve tasks, a quantum computer, by virtue of being able to store more information in its smallest data unit, can solve more complicated problems in much less time.
Since they can work with billions of variables, quantum computers' uses are much more advanced, and according to Business Insider, they are expected to help in drug research, develop new forms of computer security, and even become smart computers that can think.
Jerry Chow, one of the scientists leading the project, told Business Insider that programming a quantum computer is different and requires the use of high-school algebra and a background in programming. IBM is also offering tutorials on the subject, but it's an invite-only service.
Despite being much more powerful than a regular computer, IBM's quantum computer is still not as powerful as today's supercomputers. IBM's quantum computer reportedly runs a five-cubit processor, but according to IBM, a 50-cubit quantum computer would be so powerful that none of the TOP500 supercomputers would be able to emulate its perfirmance.
While IBM envisions medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 cubits being available within the next decade, it is not alone in the race for quantum supercomputing. "Google is working toward very similar goals," Chow told Business Insider. Google had backed and absorbed a UC Santa Barbara team working on quantum computing back in 2014.
As of today, the score stands 1-0 in favour of IBM.