Quantum mechanics---the theory describing the fundamental workings of
nature---is famously counterintuitive: it predicts that a particle can be in
two places at the same time, and that two remote particles can be inextricably
and instantaneously linked. These predictions have been the topic of intense
metaphysical debate ever since the theory's inception early last century.
However, supreme predictive power combined with direct experimental observation
of some of these unusual phenomena leave little doubt as to its fundamental
correctness. In fact, without quantum mechanics we could not explain the
workings of a laser, nor indeed how a fridge magnet operates. Over the last
several decades quantum information science has emerged to seek answers to the
question: can we gain some advantage by storing, transmitting and processing
information encoded in systems that exhibit these unique quantum properties?
Today it is understood that the answer is yes. Many research groups around the
world are working towards one of the most ambitious goals humankind has ever
embarked upon: a quantum computer that promises to exponentially improve
computational power for particular tasks. A number of physical systems,
spanning much of modern physics, are being developed for this task---ranging
from single particles of light to superconducting circuits---and it is not yet
clear which, if any, will ultimately prove successful. Here we describe the
latest developments for each of the leading approaches and explain what the
major challenges are for the future.