Quantum computing has long seemed like one of those technologies that are 20 years away, and always will be. But 2017 could be the year that the field sheds its research-only image. Computing giants Google and Microsoft recently hired a host of leading lights, and have set challenging goals for this year. Their ambition reflects a broader transition taking place at start-ups and academic research labs alike: to move from pure science towards engineering. “People are really building things,” says Christopher Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park who co-founded the start-up IonQ in 2015. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s no longer just research.” Google started working on a form of quantum computing that harnesses superconductivity in 2014. It hopes this year, or shortly after, to perform a computation that is beyond even the most powerful ‘classical’ supercomputers — an elusive milestone known as quantum supremacy. Its rival, Microsoft, is betting on an intriguing but unproven concept, topological quantum computing, and hopes to perform a first demonstration of the technology. The quantum-computing start-up scene is also heating up. Monroe plans to begin hiring in earnest this year. Physicist Robert Schoelkopf at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who co-founded the start-up Quantum Circuits, and former IBM applied physicist Chad Rigetti, who set up Rigetti in Berkeley, California, say they expect to reach crucial technical milestones soon.
Read More: Nature