IBM is advancing research and development in quantum computing, with the goal of releasing a 1,121-qubit processor called Condor in 2023. However, the Heron processor, which will have only 133 qubits, is scheduled to debut this year. Despite the lower number of qubits, each Heron chip will be able to connect directly to other Heron processors, which represents a breakthrough toward building “modular” quantum computers composed of multiple processors connected together.

IBM’s Heron project is just a first step into the world of modular quantum computing. The chips will be connected with conventional electronics, so they will not be able to maintain the “quantumness” of the information as it passes from one processor to another. But the hope is that these chips, interconnected with fiber-optic or microwave connections, will pave the way for large-scale distributed quantum computers with a million interconnected qubits, orders of magnitude necessary to execute useful algorithms in practice and free of errors.

This shift in the field, together with recent discoveries and high levels of investment, suggests that general-purpose quantum computers may be closer than previously thought.

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