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For the first time access to cutting-edge quantum computing is open free to the public over the web. On 3 May 2016, IBM launched their IBM Quantum Experience website, which enthusiasts and professionals alike can program on a prototype quantum processor chip within a simulation environment. Users, accepted over email by IBM, are given a straightforward ‘composer’ interface, much like a musical note chart, to run a program and test the output. In over a month more than 25,000 users have signed up.

The quantum chip itself combines five superconducting quantum bits (qubits) operating at a cool minus 273.135531 degrees Celsius. “There are other refrigeration systems that can still get colder, but we don’t have a need for that right now,” said Jerry Chow, manager of IBM Research’s Experimental Quantum Computing Group.

“The number of users signing up is still going up each day. Interesting responses have been about the stability and usability of the site and academics have enjoyed the introductory tutorial material. There have now been four papers posted to the arXiv for preprint that have made use of the Quantum Experience.”

There is no specific research paper about IBM’s accessible qubit chip but research of a similar experiment is published on the arXiv preprint server. On the IBM Quantum Experience website users are shown updates of the chip’s performance every day through a series of calibrated values posted on the main composer page. This is repeated twice daily to give a sense of the errors and noise within the physical system.

“The researchers at IBM are also respected scientists. I think that the IBM machine is a genuine quantum system and it has a few relatively well-working physical quantum bits that can be used controllably for running small-scale quantum algorithms,” said Mikko Möttönen, who was not involved in the work, and is leader of the Quantum Computing and Devices Labs at Aalto University, Finland.

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