Robots learn faster with Quantum Technology

Robots learn faster with Quantum Technology Artistic impression of the quantum learning concept. Credit: Rolando Barry, University of Vienna

An experiment at the University of Vienna has showed that quantum technology enables a speed-up in the machine learning using a quantum processor for single photons as a robot.

The team has made use of single photons, the fundamental particles of light, coupled into an integrated photonic quantum processor, which was designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This international collaboration has been led by a team of experimental physicists from the University of Vienna, together with theoreticians from the University of Innsbruck, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Leiden University, and the German Aerospace Center.

The quantum processor was used as a robot and for implementing the learning tasks. Here, the robot would learn to route the single photons to a predefined direction.

The experiment can be understood by imagining a robot standing at a crossroad, provided with the task of learning to always take the left turn. The robot learns by obtaining a reward when doing the correct move. Now, if the robot is placed in our usual classical world, then it will try either a left or right turn, and will be rewarded only if the left turn is chosen. In contrast, when the robot exploits quantum technology, it can now make use of one of its most famous and peculiar features, the so-called superposition principle. This can be intuitively understood by imagining the robot taking the two turns, left and right, at the same time.

This experimental demonstration that machine learning can be enhanced by using quantum computing shows promising advantages when combining these two technologies. (

The work has been published in the journal Nature.

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