Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

SETI used to do it, too. That is, have a volunteer program to chip in your CPU’s processing power to help solve some problem (in SETI’s case, look for ET). Now your idle Sony PS3 can be put to a similar use, but a bit more earthly.

The recent launch of a software update for Sony’s Internet-enabled PlayStation 3 (PS3) games console has seen more than 50,000 owners sign up to take part in a medical-research project called Folding@home. The success has now led to discussions to make dozens of other such ‘distributed computing’ projects PS3-friendly.

Such projects are designed to create a virtual supercomputer out of the spare processing power of thousands of personal computers around the world. Using a downloaded screensaver-like program, volunteers are able to help run vast computations whenever their computer is idle.

Apparently the PS3’s processor is even better at this than a computers (like 10 x better!), due to its cell processor.

…(but) the real speed comes from seven additional processing units, says Hofrichter. These are high-speed number crunchers, normally used to help simulate the physics underlying a three-dimensional game — such as the gravity that makes a character fall off a ledge. “This is exactly what Folding@home does — it’s physics simulation,” he says.


  1. #1 Dennis
    April 5, 2007

    still has its @home project. It’s simply part of Berkeley’s BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) package now, rather than a standalone application. Unfortunately, they haven’t adapted it for the PS3 yet.

  2. #2 Cameron
    April 5, 2007

    Very happy that they did this, though I’ve heard of overnight runs of this causing fan problems.

    A friend has been writing off a percent of upgrade costs for his computers for the last couple of years because he runs F@H %90 of the time (he was understandably excited when they came out with a GPU program)

    I know he self files without any professional advice. I’m almost certain what he’s doing isn’t legal, since he is only donating its use and still owns the physical object. It’d be swell if I COULD deduct a ps3, though…

  3. #3 romunov
    April 6, 2007

    Why look for intelligence outside our solar system when there’s still to be found here?

  4. #4 Charlie (Colorado)
    April 6, 2007

    Um, strictly, the PS3 *is* a computer …. If you want, you can run Linux on one.

  5. #5 Shelley
    April 6, 2007

    I wanna write off a PS3! Thats genuis!!!

  6. #6 Brandon
    April 6, 2007

    But at what cost to the planet? Is the Research done by Folding@Home worth the Energy Costs? Folding@home will have used $70million dollars worth of electricity. That would buy alot of hands on research, or saved a lot of the rainforest which could contain treatments for many of the things Folding is researching.

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