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Microsoft researchers have used an algorithm designed to work on an as-yet-nonexistent quantum computer to enhance the speed and quality of medical imaging.

The advance may one day improve the treatment of breast cancer and other diseases, the company says. For instance, it might allow doctors to determine within days whether a tumor is shrinking in response to chemotherapy, rather than having to wait weeks or months.

The development is one of a number of recent cases in which researchers have used algorithms designed for future quantum computers, machines that would make today's supercomputers look like abacuses, to improve calculations running on today's existing hardware.
The rise of quantum computing
  • In a conventional computer, information is processed in a binary format called bits, which have a value of either 0 or 1.
  • In a quantum computer, information is represented using quantum bits, or qubits. Unlike bits, qubits can represent both a 0 and a 1 at the same time—or in some cases, any value between 0 and 1.
Read more: Microsoft's Quantum Algorithm Boosts Medical Images