Quantum computers might be the next big step in the development of increasingly complex artificial intelligence (AI). A research team from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is embarking on a project to combine the capabilities of neural networks and quantum computers—two fields that are often regarded as separate.
“My colleagues and I instead hope to build the first dedicated neural network computer, using the latest ‘quantum’ technology rather than AI software,” lead researcher Michael Hartmann wrote in an essay for The Conversation. “By combining these two branches of computing, we hope to produce a breakthrough which leads to AI that operates at unprecedented speed, automatically making very complex decisions in a very short time.”
A neural network is a class of machine learning algorithms that operates similarly to how a biological brain processes information, learning from examples to handle new inputs. Quantum computers capitalize on subatomic particles that can exist in more than one state at a time, making them potentially much more powerful than traditional binary computers.
“To put the technology to its full use will involve creating larger devices, a process that may take ten years or more as many technical details need to be very precisely controlled to avoid computational errors,” Hartmann wrote. “But once we have shown that quantum neural networks can be more powerful than classical AI software in a real world application, it would very quickly become some of the most important technology out there.”