IBM has announced it has cleared a major hurdle in its effort to make quantum computing useful: it now has a quantum processor, called Eagle, with 127 functional qubits. This makes it the first company to clear the 100-qubit mark, a milestone that’s interesting because the interactions of that many qubits can’t be simulated using today’s classical computing hardware and algorithms.
But what may be more significant is that IBM now has a roadmap that would see it producing the first 1,000-qubit processor in two years. And, according to IBM Director of Research Darío Gil, that’s the point where calculations done with quantum hardware will start being useful.
Gil told Ars that the new qubit count was a product of multiple developments that have been put together for the first time. One is that IBM switched to what it’s calling a “heavy hex” qubit layout, which it announced earlier this year. This layout connects qubits in a set of hexagons with shared sides. In this layout, qubits are connected to two, three, or a maximum of four neighbors—on average, that’s a lower level of connectivity than some competing designs. But Gil argued that the tradeoff is worth it, saying “it reduces the level of connectivity, but greatly improves crosstalk.”