Xanadu receives grant from DARPA to test QML performance on quantum hardware


Toronto-based quantum computing startup Xanadu announced today that it has secured a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

An agency of the United States Department of Defense, DARPA is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the US military. Xanadu, which provides both hardware and software-based solutions, says the grant will be used to test the performance of quantum machine learning (QML) algorithms on currently available quantum computing hardware. The research project is expected to last 12 months.

Xanadu has two flagship software products, Strawberry Fields and PennyLane. Launched in November 2018, PennyLane allows users to run quantum machine learning algorithms on any available quantum computing hardware with popular machine learning tools like PyTorch and TensorFlow. The software can integrate with currently-available APIs and quantum hardware, and using a plugin system, PennyLane is also able to interact with quantum computers from different companies in a hardware-agnostic way.

“There is a strong crossover happening right now between quantum computing and AI,” said Nathan Killoran, Quantum Machine Learning team lead at Xanadu. “Many signature ideas and concepts from AI can be ported to be quantum-aware, and run on quantum computing hardware. But it’s a bit of a wild west at the moment. We don’t really have a good sense yet which of these ported machine learning methods are best suited to quantum computing, especially with today’s noisy and imperfect quantum hardware devices.”

The grant announcement is the latest in a busy year for the quantum startup. In August, Xanadu announced the results of a proof-of-concept project with BMO and Scotiabank to test the impact of quantum algorithms on financial trading projects. In June, the company closed a $32 million Series A round from Georgian Partners, Radical Ventures, Real Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, and others. Xanadu intends to use the funding to build a cloud computing platform that will merge PennyLane and Strawberry Fields.

“Photonics is very unique in that it is the one substrate that threads through most, if not all, quantum technologies,” Xanadu CEO Christian Weedbrook told BetaKit at the time. “For example, quantum computing, quantum security, and sensing can all be achieved and implemented using photonics. Going forward, our Xanadu Cloud has the ability to produce multiple applications and products not possible on other quantum cloud platforms.”

Xanadu hopes to launch Xanadu Cloud by the end of 2019. The company has raised $41 million in venture investment to date.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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