Station Q is a Microsoft Research lab located on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Topological quantum computing is the main research area over there. They are exploring theoretical and experimental approaches to creating the reliable quantum analog of the traditional bit—the qubit. If you don’t know anything about Quantum Computing, watch the short animated video above from the Microsoft Stories team.
Station Q’s strategy, to build a quantum computer based on “topological degrees of freedom,” is theoretically harder to get off the ground initially, but if and when they get it working, it will be very scalable. “Our pursuit is not strictly academic in nature. We dream a dream this will one day inform our product strategy, and be of utilitarian and economic importance,” Mundie said. “Because of that we care about getting on a path that would give us the quickest ability to do something that is economically important as opposed to just academically important.”
The economic implications could be staggering. The ability to harness quantum properties could usher in a second-coming of the computing age, one with vastly more power and speed than the silicon era. A genuine quantum offering would, in theory, utterly dwarf the power of today’s computers, making all sorts of problem-solving and applications within the realm of wild speculation – factoring very large numbers, new frontiers in cryptography, synthesizing better drugs, creating designer materials and energy sources, discovering new particles and elements, bolstering artificial intelligence, better understanding the universe – the list goes on.
Still, researchers say quantum exploration is a bit of a boomerang. They’re throwing it with as much force as they can, but there’s no guarantee of when or how it will come back (or whether it will at all).
Read this whole feature story about Microsoft’s quantum computing research over at microsoft.com/stories.