Google has been investigating some software which its inventors claim is a quantum computer.
D-Wave demonstrated the beast in 2007 and still calls it a quantum computer without much in the way of proving what it does. This is especially as many scientific labs have been trying to build a working one for ages and D-Wave seems to have created one out of thin air.
But it seems that Google is taking the outfit seriously. The search outfit said that it had started working with D-Wave on quantum computer-based search.
According to New Scientist, Google researchers claim that quantum computation provides a speed-up in image recognition. D-Wave's computer was fed a series of images that contained cars. It used this information to recognize cars in a different series of images.
It other words it is less of a quantum computer and more of a neural network, but never mind, they appear to be on to something.
While D-Wave's claims still seem unexplored and its hardware unverified it seems it has something for Google. The search engine outfit does not care if it is buying a quantum computer or not, just that it works and works better than existing systems.
Ars Technica speculates that D-Wave is using a branch of math called simulated annealing. While this doesn't require a quantum computer, it is still a very good way of solving certain classes of problems.
D-Wave appears to have perfected a simulated annealing system that is well suited to searching images for well-defined objects.
Normally this costs too much to have a computer do. However if Google and D-Wave can get it working then common searches can be pre-calculated and the results stored in databases for fast retrieval.