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After some gaming, PS3 can do protein folding

Posted: 19 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PS3? Cell Broadband Engine? Sony? Stanford University? Folding@home program?

Tapping the supercomputing functions of its PS3 gaming console, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) announced that its PS3 systems will be able to connect to Stanford University's Folding@home program, a distributed computing project aimed to understand protein folding, misfolding and related diseases.

Folding@home is leveraging PS3's Cell Broadband Engine 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, using distributed computing technology. Once the data is processed, the information is sent back via the Internet to the central computer.

The Cell processor inside each PS3 is roughly 10 times faster than a standard mainstream chip inside a PC, so researchers can perform the simulations much faster, speeding up the research process.

"In order to study protein folding, researchers need more than just one super computer, but the massive processing power of thousands of networked computers," said Masayuki Chatani, corporate executive and CTO, SCEI. "Previously, PCs have been the only option for scientists, but now, they have a new, more powerful toolPS3."

With the latest system software update expected by the end of the month, the Folding@home icon will be added to the Network menu of the XMB (XrossMediaBar) at Sony's product Website. PS3 users can join the program by clicking on the Folding@home icon or they can optionally set the application to run automatically whenever their PS3 is idle.

SCE plans to use its PS3 capacity to continue its support to distributed computing projects across different academic fields such as medical and social sciences and environmental studies.

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