DARPA interested in applying quantum computing to machine learning

Defense officials want to leverage the nuanced technology’s computing power to optimize machine learning as well as address scientific modeling problems.
IBM's 16-qubit processor. DARPA officials are seeking information on quantum technology that can be used to optimize scientific modeling. (Photo IBM Research/Flickr)

Defense officials are interested in how quantum computers can be applied to science and technology issues, including machine learning, and they’re looking to industry for help.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said Tuesday in a request for information that its Defense Sciences Office is looking to leverage the nuanced technology’s increased computing power for applications like optimizing artificial intelligence and machine learning, and addressing scientific modeling problems.

Quantum computing has been one of the most discussed emerging technologies this year, mostly for its theoretical potential to dramatically increase computing power by entangling particles — allowing the distinct “ones and zeros” of classical computer bits to be superimposed into a single state.

But while much of the discussion has centered on quantum computing’s potential ability to crack modern cryptography protocols, DARPA officials stressed in the RFI that interested industry partners should focus instead on how the technology’s computing power could be used to improve scientific applications. Specifically, the RFI requests existing or next-generation solutions that can address four core challenges:

  • Detailing the fundamental limits of quantum computing including “near-term wins” for modeling hard science problems as well as addressing scaling issues and possible integration with classical computers.
  • Outlining possible hybrid approaches to incorporating quantum computing with classical computers to optimize machine learning.
  • How to best interface quantum computers with quantum sensors.
  • What quantum computing-inspired algorithms can be applied to classical computers to handle quantum data.
  • DARPA officials also said that industry responses to the RFI would be used to determine participants in a potential future workshop on quantum technology.

Industry stakeholders have until Aug. 10 to respond.

Carten Cordell

Written by Carten Cordell

Carten Cordell is a Senior Technology Reporter for FedScoop. He is a former workforce and acquisition reporter at Federal Times, having previously served as online editor for Northern Virginia Magazine and Investigative Reporter for, Virginia Bureau. Carten was a 2014 National Press Foundation Paul Miller Fellow and has a Master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He is also a graduate of Auburn University and promises to temper his passions for college football while in the office.

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