Future quantum computing technology could bring us an “electronic nose” on smartwatches capable of detecting dangerous viruses in the air or allergens in food, and might even expand human consciousness in space and time. These revelations were shared by Hartmut Neven, founder and manager of Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, in a recent TED Talk as part of The Brave and the Brilliant series.

Neven announced that Google is finalizing the design of an algorithm that may lead to the first commercial applications for quantum computing. “This quantum algorithm performs signal processing to enable new ways to detect and analyze molecules using nuclear electronic spin spectroscopy,” he explained.

He envisioned future consumer applications, such as a device akin to an electronic nose integrated into phones or smartwatches. “Imagine your phone warning you that you stepped into a room with dangerous viruses, or your smartwatch detecting free radicals in your bloodstream or allergens in food,” Neven said.

To unlock these applications, a large, error-corrected quantum computer is essential. Neven outlined Google Quantum AI’s roadmap to build a quantum computer with 1 million physical qubits, aiming to reduce the error rate to one in a billion. “Currently, our two-qubit operations have an error rate of one in 1,000, meaning the quantum computer crashes every 1,000 steps or so,” he noted.

Google is working to improve this by combining many physical qubits with a logical qubit to significantly reduce the error rate. “We are about halfway through our roadmap and are optimistic we will complete it before the end of this decade,” Neven said.

Google has conducted analytical and numerical studies to identify which algorithms will be most impactful on a large quantum computer. The standout application is the simulation of systems where quantum effects are significant, such as in the development of targeted medicines.

Other potential applications include designing lighter, faster-charging batteries for electric cars and aircraft, accelerating the design of fusion reactors, and combating climate change. Quantum computers could also tackle optimization problems prevalent in engineering, finance, and machine learning.

Neven also discussed the intersection of physics and neurobiology, suggesting that quantum information science could help answer profound questions about consciousness. “An attractive conjecture is that consciousness is how we experience the emergence of a single classical world out of the many multiverses,” he said.

Academic collaborators have initiated a program to experimentally test this conjecture using quantum biology. “If this conjecture is correct, it could allow us to expand human consciousness in space, time, and complexity,” Neven concluded.

This breakthrough in quantum computing promises to revolutionize various fields, offering innovative solutions and new understandings of human consciousness.

By Impact Lab