Two announcements in May about the collaboration of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Google, and a private, non-profit group, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) marked an impressive, and potentially threatening, milestone in “machine learning” — teaching computers how to recognize and sort patterns in vast disparate collections of data.
The first announcement, from D-Wave Systems, a small company funded by investors including Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos and Goldman Sachs, noted
that its new 512-qubit quantum computer, the D-Wave Two, will be installed at the new Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, a collaboration among NASA, Google and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA).
The purpose of this effort is to use quantum computing to advance machine learning in order to solve some of the most challenging computer science problems.
Installation has already begun at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and the system is expected to be available to researchers during [the third quarter of 2013].
Researchers at Google, NASA and USRA expect to use the D-Wave system to develop applications for a broad range of complex problems such as machine learning, web search, speech recognition, planning and scheduling, search for exoplanets, and support operations in mission control centers.
The other announcement, from Hartmut Neven, Google’s director of engineering, was a little more explicit about the project:
We believe quantum computing may help solve some of the most challenging computer science problems, particularly in machine learning. Machine learning is all about building better models of the world to make more accurate predictions. If we want to cure diseases, we need better models of how they develop. If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what’s happening to our climate. And if we want to build a more useful search engine, we need to better understand spoken questions and what’s on the web so you get the best answer….
Our goal: to study how quantum computing might advance machine learning.
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