Helsinki is gearing up for the Quantum Game Jam, a three day gaming event with a view to utilise quantum physics to create videogames. Developers will be handed the keys to IBM’s Quantum Experience, a 20-qubit quantum computer that resides up in the cloud, hoping to utilise its unique entangled properties to build quantum gaming experiences.
From February 15 – 17, 2019, Helsinki will be flooded with game developers and quantum physicists, all vying for a spot on the Helsinki SkyWheel. And while the Quantum Game Jam event has been held annually since 2014, this is the first time devs will get to jam out a videogame on a real quantum rig.
The platform is provided by IBM, pioneers in quantum computing. The company recently unveiled the Q System One, an incredibly beautiful quantum rig taken straight from a steampunk fantasy and encased in Mona Lisa-grade security glass. Devs will be utilising QISKit, an open-source quantum computing framework, to translate their work into the quantum space. Surprisingly, in-depth knowledge of quantum PCs is not a requirement.
While traditional computers utilise bits, either 1 or 0, to run functions, Quantum bits – or qubits – can exist in either 1, 0, or both states at once. This is called superposition, a quantum characteristic that, along with quantum entanglement, can be harnessed for incredible computational power. Potential applications include: cryptography, financial analysis, and, it would seem, rudimentary gaming.
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But quantum machines are highly sensitive to noise. These fluctuations in the environment are imperceptible to human senses, but cause entirely unexpected results in a quantum environment. Quantum computers rely on error-correcting to try and negate these issues – but quantum supremacy is still a ways off.
Yet for game developers this noise isn’t always such a bad thing. Speaking with Wired about the event and quantum gaming, IBM quantum computing physicist, James Wootton, says the qubits unexpected behaviour can act similarly to a random chance game mechanic. Within the given example of a quantum game of Battleships, noise can be interpreted as ‘acts of God’, a tsunami, or a lightning strike.
“…when you read out a qubit,” Wootton tells Wired, “even if it’s solidly zero, sometimes it says it’s a one.
“Even if the opposing player hasn’t attacked you enough, noise might push you over the edge,” Wootton continues. “Say you’ve had a few torpedoes, and it’s not enough to sink you, but the noise has struck you with a lightning bolt, so you’re going to sink anyway.”
Noise is an issue that’s still plaguing the quantum computing world. Even a single error could tumble exponentially out of hand, rendering scientific results incorrect. However, without a need for precision, gamifying the limitations of quantum PCs is one way to trivialise the latent errors in the experimental qubit-based systems of today.