Quantum Computers - Shouldering the Next Stage in Computing (Part 1)

Working to a Quantum world from scratch
Interviewer & Japanese Writer: Yamamoto Takaya; Translation & Editing: Matthew Cherry

Yuichiro Minato’s theme for the 2015 INNO-vation Program’s Disruptive Challenge was “Quantum Computers and Artificial Intelligence”.  Quantum computers use the phenomena known as quantum superposition and entanglement to implement massively parallel processing (MPP). Actually using these computers can turn into quite the hassle, as the environments in which they can be used as well as the development of the programs required have been a large hurdle to jump for most people. That’s why Minato started development on an app and tools that would allow as many people as possible to use quantum computers.

Minato didn’t originally start out working with computers. In fact, his area of expertise was architecture. After studying architecture at university, he graduated and found himself working at a construction company where he was involved in designing the layouts for buildings. Even though he continued working in architecture after he went independent in 2008, it wasn’t long before he experienced a major turning point. After the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, work in architecture saw a massive decline in certain regions of Japan.

This was around the same time that smartphones in Japan became more ubiquitous in people’s everyday lives. Minato undertook work on developing websites for smartphones, taking his first big step into the world of IT.  Soon after he was put in charge of creating a system for a large culinary school, and his focus on work shifted completely to the IT field.

One day, the culinary school he was building a system for announced they were starting a new financial firm. Financial accounting has a long history, and modern-day computers have been more or less exhausted of their capabilities when it comes to pulling off these calculations. While searching for a new area of computation that he himself could implement, Minato came across a news article on how quantum computers are used to help compute financial calculations on Wall Street.

“I felt that quantum computers held massive potential. I thought if you could master these, you could essentially control the world,” Minato said. He then began his research on bringing in quantum computers to perform calculations for financial companies.

Despite the fact that many tools designed for quantum computers are currently being developed, when Minato began his work it was a level playing field. That is to say, not much was in development. Existing computer applications weren’t compatible with quantum computers, so Minato had to create everything from scratch.  

Minato wanted to create a program to help with financial calculations, but he soon discovered there weren’t any existing tools that allowed users to create programs for quantum computers. Minato started his research on creating a tool that would solve this problem.

These days big companies like Amazon and Google provide services to let people use quantum computers, but at the time Minato began his research the number of quantum computers in the world was incredibly small, and services like these didn’t exist yet. “I began speaking with a start-up company in Canada that was working on creating quantum computers, which allowed me to continue my research,” Minato said looking back at the beginning.

Minato was eventually able to create a tool for quantum computers, but he found that he couldn’t effectively spread the word about it. That’s what led him to apply to the INNO-vation Program.

In part 2, we’ll speak with Minato about his work inside the INNO-vation Program.


Continued in Part 2

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