Google is making plenty of big announcements this week. After announcing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition and new Google Maps features yesterday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based brand is announcing that it's investing heavily in quantum computing.
The search giant just purchased a $15 million quantum computer created by D-Wave System that will help them process the information it collects across of all its platforms. In addition to making the big purchase, Google announced that it would be teaming up with NASA to study machine learning using the new multi-million dollar computer.
Google's investment in quantum computing makes perfect sense. Although quantum computing was long considered an element of science fiction, the technology has actually become viable within the past 10 years. Quantum computing, in theory, allows computers to work faster and deal with heavier loads of information. Processing and calculation power is significantly stronger -- thousands of times faster -- than any existing supercomputers built around binary.
"You think you're in Dr. Seuss land," said Catherine McGeoch, the Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Computer Science) at Amherst College in a report. "It's such a whole different approach to computation that you have to wrap your head around this new way of doing things in order to decide how to evaluate it. It's like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and fish, and the difficulty was coming up with experiments and analyses that allowed you to say you'd compared things properly. It definitely was the oddest set of problems I've ever coped with."
Google and NASA plan to use quantum computing to focus on machine learning. The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, which is what the gigantic computer is called, will analyze data about the way computers note patterns of information and improve outputs.
Anyone familiar with Google's long-term strategy shouldn't be surprised by the company's interest in predictive computer processes. The company has pursued personalized Internet search for the last several years, and as it continues to drum up interest in its serves Google Now, the company is increasingly focused on predicting search queries. Although there are plenty of uses for machine learning, some of the most notable are voice recognition, biological behavior and the management of very large or complex systems.
"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," said Google in a statement announcing its partnership with NASA and its investment in quantum computing. "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."
Google and NASA aren't the only organizations interested in quantum computing. Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense company, announced earlier this year that it was buying the D-Wave Two from the same company Google bought its quantum computer. In addition to Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon and other U.S. intelligence organizations have dumped large chunks of money into the burgeoning technology. Google competitors IBM, Microsoft and Blackberry creator Mike Lazaridis are also reportedly exploring the potential uses of quantum computing.