Using the Cloud to host storage, processing and applications is an everyday experience for professionals, business and even lay people, most of the time not even realising they are using the Cloud.
Now researchers at the University of Bristol are offering quantum computation in the cloud. The target is basically researchers that want to experiment with the "strangeness" of quantum computing and not, yet, for professional use of quantum computation.
They have created a simulation environment and have a quantum processor on a chip that can run experiments designed by researchers, and this is already quite a feat.
Now they have managed to create an optical chip that can process photons in very flexible ways, actually it can be programmed to process photons in different ways.
They called it Universal Linear Optics Processor, LPU, and consists of a series of 15 interferometers and 30 thermo-optic shifters. The chip has optical and electrical interfaces to set each phase shifter independently of the others, managing in input up to 6 photons. There are 12 single photon detectors to evaluate the result of the experiment/computation. These components can be used in different architectures to form different circuits running different experiments.
Of course the ultimate goal is to use this chip as a component for a full scale quantum computer. Although true quantum computation is still a scientific quest we are seeing more and more results that are forming a quilt out of which a true quantum computer can emerge, probably by the end of this decade or early in the next. We do have already, as I noted in previous posts, systems, like d-Wave, that in specific areas of application are pretty close to a true quantum computer, but a generic quantum computer is still out of reach, so far.