In the serene environment of Westchester County, New York, lies a marvel of modern technology - the world’s largest quantum computer system, the Quantum System Two. Nestled within the Thomas J. Watson Research Lab, this groundbreaking machine stands as a testament to a legacy of innovation. The lab, known for pioneering the modern laser, DRAM, and various technologies instrumental in the Apollo moon missions, continues to be a hub for cutting-edge research, including AI and semiconductor design. Its location, Yorktown Heights, is approximately an hour’s drive from Manhattan and is architecturally significant, designed by Eero Saarinen to echo his work on the TWA terminal at JFK.

The Quantum System Two isn’t just a continuation of IBM’s computing legacy; it’s a radical departure into a new era. Its 22-foot-wide, 15-foot-high hexagonal structure, housing three Quantum Heron processors, is a marvel of design and function. Its modular design not only makes it a winner in Fast Company’s 2023 Innovation by Design Awards but also signifies its potential for future expansion. This quantum computing behemoth evokes the powerful mainframes of the ’60s and the sleek supercomputers of the ’80s.

Located conspicuously next to the lobby, its striking appearance might lead some to mistake it for an art piece or a futuristic exhibit. However, Jay Gambetta, the visionary leader behind the Quantum System Two, invites us to look beyond its façade. Inside, operating at temperatures just above absolute zero and at unimaginably tiny scales, lies the heart of what could be the next quantum supercomputer.

Gambetta, IBM Quantum’s Vice President, has dedicated nearly two decades to the realm of quantum computing. It’s a field that’s notoriously challenging, both in terms of complexity and scalability. Despite these challenges, IBM has set an ambitious roadmap, envisioning an error-corrected quantum machine within the next decade.

Quantum computing is about transcending the binary constraints of classical computing, harnessing the principles of quantum mechanics to achieve unparalleled computational power. Each added qubit exponentially increases the computing capability, unlike the linear progression seen in classical computing. Google’s recent achievement with its 70-qubit machine, which solved a problem in seconds that would have taken a supercomputer nearly five decades, is a testament to the potential of quantum computing.

The most exciting application lies in simulating quantum systems, which could revolutionize drug discovery, energy solutions, and unravel cosmic mysteries. The quantum computing sector, witnessing a significant investment influx, is at the forefront of numerous industrial and governmental applications.

IBM’s Quantum System Two, with its innovative Heron chip and the larger 1,121-qubit Condor, represents a significant leap in quantum computing. The focus now shifts to refining these systems, enhancing connectivity, and moving towards larger, parallel systems akin to classical supercomputers.

But the path forward isn’t just about more powerful machines; it’s also about refining quantum algorithms. Quantum machine learning (QML) is a promising field, with algorithms based on parameterized quantum circuits (PQCs) showing great potential. However, current quantum processors are hindered by device noise, impacting algorithm performance.

Recent advancements in error suppression, like pulse-efficient transpilation, are turning the tide. This technique, which optimizes circuit duration and minimizes noise, has shown significant improvements in QML applications. From binary classification to complex tasks like handwritten digit recognition, pulse-efficient transpilation is enhancing accuracy and extending the capabilities of quantum algorithms.

These advancements in both hardware and algorithmic approaches underscore the progress and potential of quantum computing. As we stand at the cusp of a new computing era, the Quantum System Two and advancements in quantum machine learning pave the way for an exciting, uncharted future.~B