Scientists in the US are planning on building a supercomputer network from idle PlayStation 3 consoles sitting in gamers’ homes to tackle and help understand diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
The application has been created by US biologists Folding@Home, who already run a series of research projects using PCs across the globe. The hope, is to use the massive processing power of Sony’s next-gen console, the PlayStation 3, to do more than just play games.
Gamers will be able to download a small application directly to the console, that uses their PS3’s processing power when they are leaving the machine idle. The application will then crunch small packets of data before sending it back over the internet to a central computer where all of the results can be viewed together by scientists. Using these collected data, scientists hope to get closer to the cause and cure for disease such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
The system is already used by a number organisations for PCs connected online, including Folding@Home and SETI to look at a wide variety of problems from mapping diseases to looking for extra-terrestial life forms.
According to Folding@Home in a statement on its website; “Using the Cell processor of the PS3, we should be able to do more folding than what one could do on a PC. Also, since the PS3 has a powerful GPU, the PS3 client will offer real time visualization for the first time.”
An interface is expected to be ready for the console when it launches in November 2006.
The organisation has said that a network of 10,000 PS3 boxes would enable processing performance four times as fast as the most powerful supercomputer in the world, the IBM BlueGene/L computer in California.
Sony has announced that it is expecting to sell 12 million consoles in the first year alone and if the next-generation console goes as far as selling as many as the company’s current PlayStation 2 console, the super computer network could be as large as 100 million machines offering processing time.