D-Wave Systems just got more validation for the machines it bills as quantum computers, with researchers saying one processor’s operations are consistent with quantum annealing.

photo: D-Wave Systems

Add another point to the D-Wave Systems scorecard. Researchers at the University of Southern California have been experimenting with the Lockheed Martin’s quantum computer, housed there and have concluded that it can in fact do work that’s in line with quantum mechanics.

From a news release USC issued Friday:

“Using a specific test problem involving eight qubits we have verified that the D-Wave processor performs optimization calculations (that is, finds lowest energy solutions) using a procedure that is consistent with quantum annealing and is inconsistent with the predictions of classical annealing,” said Daniel Lidar, scientific director of the Quantum Computing Center and one of the researchers on the team, who holds joint appointments with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The new research, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, follows research presented earlier this year from Amherst College professor Catherine McGeoch showing that D-Wave’s gear can perform operations faster than classical computers in some experiments. And a couple of the USC researchers themselves previously came forth with work suggesting, but not proving, that D-Wave computer can perform quantum annealing. The latest round of research brings more credence to the idea that quantum annealing and not classical annealing is possible with D-Wave. Quantum annealing could potentially arrive at answers to problems more quickly, kind of like going through a big hill instead of going up and over it in order to arrive at the same destination.

Still, there has been plenty of pushback as to whether A D-Wave machine really is a quantum computer that’s capable of solving lots of problems much faster than classical computing systems. And the new paper from USC doesn’t actually come out and call it one. It shows consistency with quantum annealing.

Whether or not it is a full-on quantum computer, commercial adoption of it beyond Lockheed and Google and NASA is certainly inhibited at this point by the initial cost. Lockheed reportedly paid $10 million for its machine, and operating it requires some pretty cold conditions — 457 degrees below zero.

Meanwhile researchers the world over are trying to come up with different ways to enable quantum computing. Commercialization of those technologies are years off, but perhaps they will prove more acceptable to D-Wave skeptics if and when they materialize into actual products.

By Jordan Novet