PlayStation Power Boosts Scientific Research - InformationWeek

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3/27/2007
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PlayStation Power Boosts Scientific Research

Games almost become a secondary feature as [email protected] subscribers are helping fight Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, and other diseases.

Sony's PlayStation3 is doing more than just entertaining gaming enthusiasts -- it has now blossomed into a powerful tool for medical research.

At the start of business on Tuesday, organizers with [email protected] said they were overwhelmed with the amount of anonymous participants who use their PS3s for more than racing around a track or blowing things up.

More than 14,000 active PS3 users had connected to [email protected]'s online software by Friday. A day earlier, researchers and Sony released a version of the application that allows computers and game consoles to model the way proteins fold so scientists can use the information to research disease. Currently, there are 642,778 anonymous computers signed up for the project.

Almost as soon as [email protected] launched the software application for Sony's latest video game console, those involved in the project noticed an immediate boost to computing power.

On Tuesday, researchers with the project noticed a spike of 381 teraflops from the software cores coming from PS3 game consoles. That's more than double the 646 teraflops of combined power of all of the home Windows PCs, Macintosh, and Linux boxes hooked up to run [email protected]'s program.

The PlayStation Network menu of the XrossMediaBar on PS3s allows users to click an icon to download free software and donate computing power when their machines are idle. The PlayStation Network is live in 12 languages and 49 countries, with 57 unique storefronts.

The console's unused computing cycles deliver more than 346 trillion floating point operations per second, or almost 200 trillion more per second than active PC participants, which total nearly 160,000 users, according to Sony. The PS3 does have a bit of an advantage over other home computers. The console is equipped with several 3.2-GHz Cell processors with up to 1.8 teraflops of floating point potential.

The [email protected] project uses distributed computing to model the ways proteins fold, which scientists say will help them understand the role of proteins in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, and other diseases. The software works with Windows, Mac OS X/PowerPC, Mac OS X/Intel, Linux, and graphics processors made by companies such as Nvidia and ATI.

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