FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Harnessing PlayStations to Fight Disease

Sony's PlayStation 3 is expected to be one of the hot must-have items this holiday season... and it might have an unexpected benefit for public health.

The Internet-ready game device contains a powerful Cell processor -- the same model used in IBM's supercomputers -- as well as ample hard drive space (up to 60GB), inspiring a project by Stanford University to harness the power of all these online PlayStations.

The project, Folding@home, is similar to the seti@home initiative that utilized the processing cycles of idle PCs to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. In this case, the project has created a distributed computing system out of idle computers to run complex calculations and simulations so that scientists can analyze proteins related to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and other challenging diseases.

The project, active since 2000, has 1 million CPUs online. One estimate is that a network of 10,000 PlayStations would increase the speed of conventional calculations by a factor of five. A network of 100,000 machines would make it 50 times faster.

To participate, PlayStation users should visit this page on the Folding@home site. Windows, Linux and Mac users can also download software to participate.

Source: CNN.com