Sony Computer Entertainment has announced that its PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles will have the capability to connect to Stanford University’s Folding@home program, a distributed computing project aimed at understanding protein folding, misfolding and related diseases.
Folding@home will be using the PlayStation 3’s (PS3) powerful Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.) – and what will be an even more powerful distributed supercomputing network of PS3 systems – to help study the causes of diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis and many cancers.
Because the process of folding proteins is so complex, computers are used to perform simulations to study the process. Since these simulations can take up to 30 years for a single computer to complete, Folding@home enables this task to be shared among thousands of computers connected via the network, utilizing distributed computing technology. Once the data is processed, the information is sent back via the internet to the central computer.
The Cell/B.E. processor inside each PS3 is roughly 10 times faster than a standard mainstream chip inside a personal computer (PC), so researchers are able to perform the simulations much faster, speeding up the research process.
Millions of users have experienced the power of PS3 entertainment. Now they can utilize that exceptional computing power to help fight diseases, said Masayuki Chatani, corporate executive and CTO for Sony Computer Entertainment. Previously, PCs have been the only option for scientists, but now, they have a new, more powerful tool – PS3.
With the latest system software update expected to become available at the end of March, the Folding@home icon will be added to the Network menu of the XrossMediaBar. PS3 users can join the program by clicking on the Folding@home icon, or can set the application to run automatically whenever PS3 is idle.