(Gizmodo) Earlier this month, quantum computing startup Xanadu, based in Toronto, Canada, put two of its so-called photonic quantum computers on the cloud—the first commercially available devices of their kind.
Xanadu’s computers each consist of a silicon chip about the size of a thumbnail, with 8 and 12 infrared laser beams shining onto them, respectively. To execute an algorithm, the computer carefully puppeteers the beams to reflect, combine, and interact in a controlled way. You can think of the chip as an abacus of sorts, where the chip solves math problems by manipulating laser beams instead of wooden beads.
Just as it’s easier to build boxy structures with Legos and amorphous blobs with Play-Doh, a quantum computer made of light can solve certain math problems more readily compared to a quantum computer made of superconducting circuits (like Google’s), and vice versa. “The set of problems that you can solve on our cloud is literally different from anyone else,” said Xanadu CEO Christian Weedbrook, who is a physicist by training.
Anyone can apply for time on the computers, although Xanadu is prioritizing researchers at government labs, multinational corporations, and multi-user institutions. Over 250 people have already applied to use Xanadu’s devices,