(PhysicsWorld) Quantum computing researcher James Wooten believes that creating games for quantum computers offers an engaging way of exploring and testing their capabilities. He calls for programs that serve as examples of what a program can be, and that allow new users to learn by experimenting with the code. We need programs that will take full advantage of a device’s capabilities and demonstrate its strengths and weaknesses. And we need programs that enable users to experience an otherwise inscrutable area of physics directly; to learn how it works; and to figure out how it can be harnessed.
This philosophy is part of what motivated Wooten to start making games that run on quantum computers. After a few initial experiments, his first proper game was called Battleships with partial NOT gates. Like more traditional versions of Battleships, his is played on a grid where each point represents a place where a ship might be hiding (figure 1). The grid is tailored to suit the device used to play the game. At the time I created it, this meant the one and only device that was available to use: a five-qubit prototype quantum processor made by IBM. So the grid for my Battleships game had five points, one for each qubit. To get my ships running on this real device, all I needed to do was use IBM’s open-source Qiskit package to write my quantum program. The game requires two players, each of whom must choose three of their five qubits to play the role of ships.
Until a few years ago, experimental quantum computing was something that you could only do if you worked in one of the right labs. Even theorists working in the same field had little access to it. Now, thanks to devices put online by IBM and Rigetti, using real quantum hardware is something that’s accessible to all.
NOTE: James Wootton is a quantum computing researcher who has just moved from the University of Basel, Switzerland, to the quantum computing group at IBM Research Zurich.