As the world is gearing towards more automation and AI, the need for quantum computing has also grown exponentially. Quantum computing lies at the intersection of quantum physics and high-end computer technology, and in more than one way, hold the key to our AI-driven future.
Quantum computing requires state-of-the-art tools to perform high-end computing. This is where TPUs come in handy. TPUs or Tensor Processing Units are custom-built ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) to execute machine learning tasks efficiently. TPUs are specific hardware developed by Google for neural network machine learning, specially customised to Google’s Machine Learning software, Tensorflow.
The liquid-cooled Tensor Processing units, built to slot into server racks, can deliver up to 100 petaflops of compute. It powers Google products like Google Search, Gmail, Google Photos and Google Cloud AI APIs.
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With the need for quantum computing increasing and the resources to build heavy machines getting scarcer, the necessity to create a program for faster computation has become paramount. To that end, Google has come up with an API, Floq.
Sandbox at Alphabet, Google’s secretive software development team, is the architect behind Floq. Floq allows developers to harness TPUs to simulate quantum computing workloads. Google provided Floq to 50 teams as part of the QHack Open Hackathon.
The Sandbox at Alphabet team repurposed TPUs to accelerate simulations in the cloud to allow developers to use frontends like TensorFlow Quantum and PennyLane to build quantum models and run them remotely on Floq.
Floq simulators run 10 to 100x faster than the latest simulations accelerated by GPUs in terms of runtime, according to Sandbox at Alphabet scientist Guillaume Verdon.
“The team has been experimenting with how to use Floq for physics, machine learning. And we have developed our own open-source library for tensor networks that run on TPUs. It’s [surprising] how good the chips are for quantum simulation. It’s almost like they were designed for this task,” Vernon said.
Floq, once released widely, will work hand-in-hand with Cirq, Google’s service that gives developers access to its quantum computing hardware. It will rival IBM’s Quantum Experience suite and simulators from Intel, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Like Russian President Vladimir Putin said, in the AI arms race, the country with the best tech will rule the world. The quantum computers are the major drivers of this AI race. Interestingly, back in the early 2000s, Wired’s Kevin Kelly asked Google founders about the business model and how Google Search would bring revenue, they responded by simply saying: “Oh, we’re actually building an artificial intelligence company.”
Google has indeed stayed the course. Though the Floq was announced in February in a live streaming event, it didn’t attract a lot of media attention. But it’s clear that Floq has the potential to change the quantum computing game and give Alphabet an edge over the competitors. Though most of the details about Floq is kept under the wraps, the world is indeed looking forward to its future iterations and the big reveal.