A purple M&M’s won the IBM Quantum Computing hackathon

I was invited to the Qiskit.camp hackathon, an event organized by IBM Research, where they invited the best minds in quantum computing from Universities like Stanford, Yale, Pittsburg or Notre Dame, and researchers from all around the world: UK, Australia, Spain, and even from NASA!

I love hackathons, they force you to focus in a task in a short period of time with a team of brilliant people, so you end having a lot of fun, new friends and new knowledge, sometimes in new areas, like this time!

The Purple Qbits team from left to right: Sam, Connon, Asier and Olivia.

There were two prices for the 26 teams (130 participants!). And I still can’t believe that we won one of them as Purple Qbits, the other prize went to qGradient (they compute analytic gradients to improve convergence rates). I still think that every presented project deserved a prize, cause the projects I saw were fantastic and very very advanced, I am pretty sure we will have at least 1–2 Nobel prizes in that hackathon, follow them closely!

Creating the first AR Quantum Computer

Seeing that we could not compete with the average skills in that room (quantum theories, matrix solving skills and other math-related areas…), we decided to work on something more visual, to explain to the newcomers (developers, students…) how quantum computing works.

So we created.. the purple qbit! A small qbit with M&M’s shape based on the drawings Olivia had, she is a quantum physicist, and her detailed knowledge was essential to achieve a great representation of the qbit behavior.

This qbit explains how it can be in two states only, but when you hide it inside a quantum computer, it can be in both of them at the same time. The idea to reveal the state of the qbit was to carve a hole in the “AR Quantum computer”, so only when you look through the hole you can guess if the qbit is in a red or blue state. In the meantime it is purple :-)

The AR video, just recorded at JFK airport, where I am writing this article:

Connecting the AR Quantum Computer to the real one

We didn’t want to create a visual “wow” demo only, our idea was also to connect this AR Quantum computer to the real ones IBM has, so we draw a line from the Q to place the Quantum gates operators, something like this:

Result ← Q___|H|__|X|__|X| ← Execution direction

So suddenly we had an educational AR experience where you learn the basics of Quantum Computing plus the basics of the Quantum operations by using quantum logic gates, in a real quantum computer!

So why we won? Maybe our project was “the different” one, or perhaps is something that people needs (at least me) to understand how the crazy quantum world works. I would like to see more graphical representations of the projects that were presented, cause the quantum world is very interesting, and isn’t so tricky when you visualize how it works from inside.

So I hope that soon, physicist and VR/AR developers (and UX designers!) work closely to make quantum physics and computing attractive to everyone.

The Qiskit Camp experience was amazing, the venue on the snowy mountains of Vermont, the after-hackathon dinner with country music and party (yes! Physicist loves to dance!🤓)the friendly people around… For me has been my Top #1 hackathon, even over the Techcrunch Disrupt SF I participated years ago.

If you like Quantum Computing, try to attend the next edition!

Picture by @ismaelfaro



Robotics & Embedded AI at @NVIDIA | GenerativeAI Dev | Formerly at IBM Quantum | I love AI, XR, robotics, and specially humans! | Bio: asierarranz.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Asier Arranz

Robotics & Embedded AI at @NVIDIA | GenerativeAI Dev | Formerly at IBM Quantum | I love AI, XR, robotics, and specially humans! | Bio: asierarranz.com