A team of scientists says they've built a quantum computer that generates a superposition of several possible futures the computer could experience.
The research, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, describes how this quantum system could help futuristic artificial intelligence learn much faster than it can today - and it could mean quantum computers are finally becoming practical tools.
For now, the quantum computer built by Griffith University and Nanyang Technological University scientists can hold two superpositions of 16 different possibilities, according to the research.
It also uses less memory than a classical computer would, suggesting it could outperform classical systems at certain tasks.
"This is what makes the field so exciting. It is very much reminiscent of classical computers in the 1960s," Griffith University scientist Geoff Pryde said in a press release.
"Just as few could imagine the many uses of classical computers in the 1960s, we are still very much in the dark about what quantum computers can do."
Right now, artificial intelligence learns by analyzing example after example and looking for patterns. The scientists behind this research argue that their quantum superpositions could vastly improve the process.
"By interfering these superpositions with each other, we can completely avoid looking at each possible future individually," Griffith researcher Farzad Ghafari said in the press release.
"In fact, many current artificial intelligence algorithms learn by seeing how small changes in their behaviour can lead to different future outcomes, so our techniques may enable quantum enhanced AIs to learn the effect of their actions much more efficiently."