Microsoft/IonQ challenge at iQuHACK 2022: Recap

Mariia Mykhailova

This January we were excited to partner with IonQ to offer one of the technical challenges for iQuHACK – MIT’s annual quantum hackathon. This year the hackathon was hosted online and attracted over 400 participants from 57 countries (check out the writeup by the hackathon organizers!)

The challenge proposed to the participants was very straightforward: use a quantum computer to build a game, or a component of a game. IonQ offered free access to their ion trap quantum device during the hackathon.

After the 26-hour hacking period we got 36 projects to judge. The projects were evaluated based on the lightning presentations by the teams and the code, and graded on five scales: utility of concept, technical merit, creativity, relevance, and communication. To fit the presentations in just a couple of hours between the end of the hacking and the results announcement, the teams were split into multiple rooms, so each judge only met a small subset of all teams.

The projects demonstrated a variety of takes on the theme: from quantum-inspired variants of card games and Tetris to educational games on topics such as universal gate sets or state tomography. Let’s take a look at the five winning teams and their projects.

Winner: Opti-maze (Alberto Colombo, Nikita Astrakhantsev, Reinis Irmejs, Vasilii Bokov, Tom Westerhout)

Image OptiMaze team photo s

The winning projects implemented a game that would teach the player about solving optimization problems using the Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA). The game has two regimes: the player can either compete with the quantum computer to try and get a better result or cooperate with it to solve the problem together.

“We were strangers before the hackathon (except for Tom and Nikita) and we built up the team in the slack of the competition. Then, we realized that 3 of us (Nikita, Vasiliy and Reinis) were in Munich that day, and they met for lunch just before the competition started.”

Check out the interview with the winning team, or go straight to the project.

Runner-up: Qic Qac Qoe (Chirag Falor, Hieu Dinh, Lauren Li, Linh Nguyen, Shu Ge)

Image QicQacQoe team photo s

As the name hints, this project implemented a quantum variant of the classic Tic Tac Toe game, in which each square of the grid is a qubit, and players’ moves can apply individual gates, simple circuits, or measurements to modify the quantum state of the game.

“iQuHACK was a super fun quantum hackathon. It was a great opportunity as I got to meet a lot of people with a deep love for quantum computing. We were very excited with the project prompt, and it was really amazing that we could run our program on an actual quantum computer… I think it’s fun and enriching to think of quantum in a game setting and apply complex knowledge in an approachable and educational context.”

Check out the project here.

Runner-up: QuHackJack Casinos™ (Francesco Scala, Karim Alaa El-Din, Rabins Wosti, Arunava Majumder)

Image QuHackJack team photo s

In this blackjack-inspired game the player can affect the probability distribution of the cards they are dealt by applying gates to the quantum state used to generate the next card randomly.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the freedom the organizers gave us in designing our own project by having minimal requirements. That really got our creative juices flowing! Now we can say out loud that gambling is boring while cheating with quantum mechanics is fun!”

Check out the project here.

Runner-up: SOULINQ (Areeq Hasan, Tanya Garg, Zoltan Udvarnoki, Gideon Uchehara, Zhiyong Zheng)

Image SOULINQ team photo s

SOULINQ is a 2-player 2D platformer in which the players share an entangled pair of souls. They have to navigate the world, consuming inner fire to evolve their soul states, fighting each other, and surviving cosmic rays that collapse their states to “dead” or “alive”.

“With a passion for both independently, I really enjoyed the experience of building at the interface of game design and quantum computing. I thought the idea of representing human souls with qubits and human relationships with entanglement in a real-time multiplayer game was interesting, but the idea of the game as an interactive quantum prisoner’s dilemma simulation particularly intrigues me. A big thank-you to MIT and Microsoft for organizing the event, bringing our team together, and helping make this project possible— it was an absolute blast!”

Check out the project here.

Runner-up: Wyn (Wittman Goh, Yiting Huang, Nadine Meister)

Image Wyn team photo s

This project featured a game inspired by auto-chess, in which the players construct 2-qubit circuits that aim to flip their input states from 0 to 1 and then pit them against each other by combining them in longer circuits.

“Overall we thought that it was a very enjoyable experience, and it helped us learn new ways to think about quantum circuits. We just wished the hackathon duration was longer so we could flesh out our game design (especially the GUI) more!”

Check out the project here.


Congratulations to the winning teams! We really enjoyed hosting the challenge, and we are looking forward to future hackathons!


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