April 26, 2022
Physics graduate students took Wordle into the realm of quantum computing and placed second in the IBM Quantum Challenge as part of the QC Hack 2022 hackathon.
Shikha Bangar, Elias Kokkas, and Rahul Soni—along with Evangelos Varvelis of RWTH Aachen University in Germany—are friends and physicists with shared interests that led them to QC Hack 2022, a weeklong boot camp (with a two-day hackathon) founded by a student coalition and dedicated to quantum computing.
Shikha Bangar, Elias Kokkas, Rahul Soni, and Evangelos Vervelis
"As a group of friends with keen interests in physics, we regularly share with each other about ongoing physics events like conferences, seminars, and boot camps," Bangar said. The "QC Hack 2022 event appeared to be an excellent opportunity for us to work together, especially for the hackathon event."
Bangar and Kokkas both work in quantum computation (QC) with Professor George Siopsis. Soni is a member of Professor Elbio Dagotto’s group and shares their fascination with QC. Kokkas suggested they reach out to his friend Varvelis, a fellow graduate student also working in the field.
With the roster assembled, they took on the challenge of creating an interactive program where a human faced off against a quantum computer. They developed a quantum version of the popular New York Times game, Wordle, where players have six tries to find a five-letter word. The game lets them know if a letter is correct and in the right spot, correct but in the wrong spot, or wrong altogether. Bangar and her team came up with a quantum version called QWordl.
In their version, a human and quantum computer compete to see which can guess a randomly-chosen word first. The team included two performance levels: beginners solved for a three-letter word and experts solved for a five-letter word. Their efforts brought home second prize in the IBM Quantum Challenge portion of the hackathon, which Bangar said included 500 participants and 25 different team projects submitted internationally.
With a powerful algorithm behind it, the machine always wins in the students’ game, but they have plans to make the competition more balanced. Bangar said they’d like to improve multiple aspects of their algorithm and use quantum physics to give humans a better chance of winning. In the current version the player is trying to guess the word in a purely classical way, but the team wants to give players quantum resources in order to compete with the quantum computer. They’d also like to implement some error mitigation techniques so they can successfully run this algorithm on IBM’s quantum computer, as opposed to the quantum simulator they used previously.
With these changes, Bangar said, they believe their game (to be renamed QuWordle) will become more entertaining and a good competitor for the original Wordle.