But even some former D-Wave critics have been won over – at least in part. Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has long been involved in quantum computing, says that when Lockheed Martin first got interested in D-Wave, he tried to dissuade them from buying it. Lloyd himself had been involved in developing the principles behind the adiabatic quantum computer, but says his group didn’t patent the idea because they didn’t think a practical machine could really be built. “I was probably wrong, and [Lockheed and D-Wave] were probably right,” he now says. “The D-Wave device is doing something quantum, but it's not clear yet what that something is."
Perhaps the bigger question then is whether Lockheed’s multi-million dollar investment is a signal that the company really believes in D-Wave’s quantum computer. At least one theory suggested by those in the quantum computing world is that Lockheed’s gamble is less a bet on the reality of quantum computing, than a bid to win favour with the Canadian government, a key investor in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“I think from a technology perspective I’m somewhat agnostic to that [idea]: It’s great technology, and it’s a unique capability… and that would have got our attention under almost any circumstance,” says Brad Pietras, vice president of technology for Lockheed Martin. “The fact that the Canadian government is an F-35 partner, and we work closely with them as industrial partners and allies is just a fantastic added bonus to the relationship.”
Pietras also isn’t too worried about whether the D-Wave computer has won over all its scientific critics. “In the short-term, my concern is, what is its utility? What problems can we solve?” he says.
As for whether the computer is truly “quantum,” Pietras’ answer is simple: “It really isn’t a question that concerns me that much.”