Quantum computers aren’t ready for the big time yet, but you could help program their circuits and make them a reality by playing a new game.
could massively speed up the discovery of solutions to certain problems, but scaling up lab experiments to machines that can solve real problems has so far proved too challenging.
Nowof the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science in Saitama, Japan, and his colleagues want help from members of the public to change that.
Following in the footsteps of projects such as online science puzzle game, Devitt has turned the problem of programming a quantum computer into a game called . His team has developed a to test the game, which you can play now, and today campaign to fund a fully fledged version for iOS and Android phones.
The game is based on a technique called topological error correction, which many research groups around the world are using in the.
The technique works by carving out circuits in a 3D grid of quantum bits, or qubits. The larger the circuit, the more qubits you need and the more challenging it is to build your computer.
Rearranging the circuits
Crucially, it is the general structure – the topology – of these circuits, and not their specific shape, that determines their function. A well-worn joke among topologists makes more sense in this light: topologists can’t tell the difference between a coffee cup and a doughnut, because both are shapes with a single hole.
Topologically rearranging a quantum circuit can shrink its overall volume, reducing the number of qubits required. And researchers ideally want to make them as small as possible.
“We don’t yet know how to solve this on a computer,” says Devitt, butsystem on a non-quantum computer to do the work is probably the way forward. “We need to teach a classical computer how to optimise and compile quantum circuits, and to do that we need to give it a huge amount of examples to learn from,” he says – and that’s where you can help.
In the game, circuits appear as 3D puzzles. Players are provided with a variety of tools to manipulate and shrink the puzzles without breaking rules that relate to the underlying scientific theory.
In the fiction of the game, your circuits power a kind of spaceship called a Quantum Rig, which players race against each other by trying to create the best-optimised circuit. “The online competitive nature of problem-solving in meQuanics will be used to rank racers that are competing with each other,” says Devitt.
“The public is not a passive participant in this project: they are the core resource that we need to help program actual quantum-computing systems,” he says. “If meQuanics becomes as popular as professionally designed games, we can make a huge impact.”
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