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Quokka: More Than Meets The Eye

By Brian Siegelwax posted 05 Jul 2024

Newcomers to quantum computing ask such questions as “what is superposition” and “what is entanglement,” but even veterans are likely to ask “what the heck is Quokka?” Whatever you think it is, and whatever you think it isn’t, there’s more to Quokka than meets the eye.

Simulators vs Emulators

There is no standardized terminology in quantum computing. For purposes of this article, a quantum computer simulator returns results as if a quantum circuit was run on “perfect” qubits. A quantum computer emulator, on the other hand, returns results as if a quantum circuit was run on a specific type of quantum computer, or even a specific quantum computer.

The first answer to everyone’s question is that Quokka is an emulator. However, it doesn’t emulate the hardware of today. Instead, it emulates the fault-tolerant hardware of tomorrow. Although the results will resemble those of using a simulator, there is a technical distinction that makes it an emulator. The key takeaway is that it is meant to provide you with the “honest experience” of using a 30-qubit fault-tolerant quantum computer.



We Doon’t Have The Poower

You can install simulator or emulator software on your laptop, so why on Earth would you buy a Quokka? Well, if you install software on your laptop or desktop, you have to use your computer’s processing power and memory to perform the computation. These resources can become unavailable for a while. But if you use the Quokka’s quad-core processor with 4GB RAM instead, your computer remains available for other tasks.

Personally, I don’t usually have 4GB RAM free at any given time, and you might not either. I just checked, and I don’t have that much free memory even while writing an article. Therefore, without Quokka, I would run out of memory trying to do what it can do. I don’t have the power.

You can also use a simulator or emulator via the cloud, so why not use one of those? The short answer is that using a local network is always faster than using the Internet. You would have to run a large enough circuit with enough cloud compute to negate the network latency in order to outperform the Quokka. For that matter, if you’re using a Quokka, you’re not transmitting anything anywhere, and that might be a worthy consideration.

Transform and Roll Out

The Quokka is billed as your personal 30-qubit quantum computer emulator, but that shortchanges it quite a bit. The USB cable is for the electrical charge only, and you actually use Bluetooth to configure it to use your Wi-Fi. But if it’s connected to your Wi-Fi, this means that you, your brother Darryl, and your other brother Darryl can all use it to run circuits. Instead of thinking of it as your own personal emulator, you could think of it as your own personal quantum computing cloud. You can keep it to yourself, but you can also share it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have my own personal quantum computing cloud.

Now Light Our Darkest Hour

It’s one thing to know that Optimus Prime or Rodimus Prime has the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, but it’s another thing to see it. It is designed to get attention for two purposes: 1) it lets everyone know who the boss is, and 2) it assuages any concerns the boss might have over being worthy of the role.

Quokka is intended to provide such a tactile experience. You can see it, smell it, and hold it, and the LEDs remind you that it’s there. Your laptop and the Internet, in contrast, don’t care whether you’re doing quantum computation or watching YouTube videos. But Quokka is right there to remind you that you’re actively transforming theory into experiment.


Half the fun of having a Quokka might be letting people guess what the heck it is, but emulating a 30-qubit quantum computer is no joke. I’ve crashed my browser simulating 10 qubits. I’ve hit the 10,000-second runtime of a cloud simulator with only 20 qubits. But with Quokka, you can wield the power to emulate 30 qubits literally in the palm of your hand.

I would conclude that with great power comes great responsibility, but invoking two franchises in one article is plenty. You can get your very own handy dandy quantum computer emulator, by the way, from https://www.eigensystems.com.au/.








Categories: quantum computing

Tags: emulator, Quantum, quantum circuit, Quokka, simulator

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