(BBC) Orca Computing, founded two years ago by Oxford academics led by Prof Ian Walmsley, whose work on photonics is at the heart of the company, says its novel approach will make quantum computing more commercially viable.
In an on-site interview with BBC, Orca’s Chief Executive Richard Murray opened what looks like a standard server cabinet in Orca’s compact offices on a west London science park, Richard Murray pointed to the computer and explained, “We’re completely changing the way people view quantum computers, it’s not cryogenically cooled, it’s all at room temperature.
“And you’ll also see it looks a lot like a normal computer would – it’s a rack-mounted system, it looks very unspecialist. Our approach uses single photons, so single units of light.”
“And the great thing about single photons is that they don’t interfere with the outside environment.”
Most of the major players in this field, including Google and IBM, use an approach involving freezing qubits, the building blocks of a quantum computer, down to near absolute zero.
And this means large machines with costly infrastructure around them.
One of the UK’s leading quantum-computing experts Prof John Morton, of University College London, says using photons is a perfectly valid method. There’s certainly a few important companies working on it,” he says.
“Photonics is definitely not a fringe approach.”
But Orca’s four-qubit machine has about the same power as a thermostat or an Apple Watch.
“It’s in an earlier stage in terms of qubit number than what Google and Rigetti and IBM are doing with superconducting qubits,” Prof Morton says.
And scaling up is likely to be a major challenge.