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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 12, 2007 at 5:15 PM

PS3 and Stanford research: So much for virtual

Expect an update Thursday on how Sony PlayStation 3 users can participate in Folding@Home, the cool distributed computing project at Stanford University that links PCs around the world to do processor-intensive research into protein folding, misfolding and related disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow.

The project has been linking PCs around the world into ad-hoc supercomputers, and it’s planning to tap into the multicore processing power of the PS3.

Sony’s giving an update and press demonstration at the school Thursday.

I’m guessing Sony will announce the availability of software that enables PS3 owners to plug into the network and share their spare processing power. Maybe they’ll even add a Stanford laboratory to the PS3’s new virtual world.

Folding@Home has already posted an outline of the PS3 project that talks about the potential of using the console’s Cell processors:

With this new technology (as well as new advances with GPUs), we will likely be able to attain performance on the 100 gigaflop scale per computer. With about 10,000 such machines, we would be able to achieve performance on the petaflop scale. With software from Sony, the PlayStation 3 will now be able to contribute to the Folding@Home project, pushing Folding@Home a major step forward.

Our goal is to apply this new technology to push Folding@Home into a new level of capabilities, applying our simulations to further study of protein folding and related diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and certain forms of cancer. With these computational advances, coupled with new simulation methodologies to harness the new techniques, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, and make even greater impacts on our knowledge of folding and folding related diseases.

What’s really far out is the way the software may simultaneously use the PS3’s graphics processor to display the folding process in real-time. Console owners will even be able to navigate the 3D images using their game controllers, according to the project’s FAQ. Here’s an image.

Comments | More in | Topics: Education, Games & entertainment

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