Decodoku: Quantum Battleships

Recently we reported our participation from the Quantum Breathing exhibition and the Quantum Game Cafe. At the cafe, visitors got the chance to play our games and also some other quantum related games, including one from Decodoku! For this special occasion, Dr. James Wootton, the brain behind the game has come all the way to Aarhus from the University of Basel, Switzerland, visited our headquarters and updated us about his latest projects.

Last year, IBM brought a revolution to the field of quantum computing, called The Quantum Experience, which is the first quantum cloud computing service with an easy-to-use web interface and allow anyone to experiment with making quantum circuits. These circuits can run even on mobile devices. With this revolutionary invention, IBM made a great effort to bring people to quantum computing. However, there are some drawbacks. The usage still requires background knowledge of linear algebra and devices are too small and noise to fully realize most algorithms.

That’s the point where James and his Decodoku games are coming to the picture as an ideal quantum programming tutorial. They facilitate theory learning in a native way. The programs are relatable, accessible and tailor made for the device. Last but not least, experimenting with the code is not only possible but even encouraged.

I took the opportunity to talk with James about his games and their benefits.

James Wooton's talk in Aarhus

Dr. James Wootton giving a talk at ScienceAtHome headquarters

Why are games the ideal solutions to learn more about quantum computing?
J: “With games, the player already knows what the program is supposed to do. This lets them focus on understanding how the quantum computer does it. We can then introduce the unique aspects of quantum computers as game mechanics. We can also provide a one-to-one relation between gameplay and the device, to give an added insight into what's going on in the quantum processor.”

“We can also design games so that modifications to the program don't break the game, they just change it. This lets people experiment with changing the program to see what happens. It also means that the noise present in current devices won't prevent us playing.”

So, what is your quantum game about?
J: “It is called Quantum Battleships and it is the first game made for quantum computers. It’s like the Japanese version of Battleships where ships take up a single position and different ships need a different number of bombs to sink. Each qubit on a chip is a potential position and bombs are implemented through single qubit rotations.”

Battleship sounds like an old board game or a very simple computer game. How is it connected to the IBM QX?
J: “The game runs on a hybrid of classical and quantum computers. The purpose of the classical part is to handle input and output to players, loop over each round, write the program for the quantum part and check for ‘Game Over’ condition. This is all written in Python, a standard programming language.”

“The quantum part of the hybrid is responsible for implementing game mechanics. So it is the real core of the game. We create a quantum ‘circuit’ based on the player inputs, which is just like the ones you would see in the web interface for the Quantum Experience. This set of instructions is then sent off to the device in IBMs lab, which then calculates what is happening with the ships.”

Did you get interested to get a more in-depth intro to programming a quantum computer or would you even try it yourself? James has written a tutorial about How to program a quantum computer. It might be a bit complicated for general computer users but an exciting challenge for those who have some interest in programming.

Thank Dr. James Wootton for visiting ScienceAtHome and Quantum Breathing virtual reality exhibition in Aarhus. We hope to welcome him again at our headquarters for future projects and collaborations!


Decodoku: Quantum Battleships