PS3 owners flock to health research program

Since the console included support for distributed computing project a month ago, more than 250,000 PS3 users have registered.
Written by Emma Boyes, Contributor
A month after Sony launched a PlayStation 3 update with support for the Folding@home distributed computing project, Stanford University is calling the response from console owners "phenomenal."

Since the PS3 part of the project went online in March, more than 250,000 PS3 users have registered for the program, more than doubling the power of the network.

Distributed computing refers to the practice of using computers' spare processing power to tackle programming jobs. The Folding@home project works by utilizing the idle processing power of PCs, Macs and PS3s to investigate the causes of diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cystic fibrosis and various cancers.

Similar to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence's famed SETI@home project, in which thousands of PC users are donating a slice of their computers' processing time to aid in the hunt for intelligent life in outer space, Folding@home has been relying on contributions from PC users around the world since its inception.

An update to Folding@home will be available for download starting Thursday, April 26, and will feature "an improvement in calculation speeds, increased visibility of user location on the globe, and ability for users to create longer donor or team names." The update to version 1.1 can be downloaded by restarting the Folding@home application.

"The PS3 turnout has been amazing, greatly exceeding our expectations and allowing us to push our work dramatically forward," said Vijay Pande, a Stanford University chemistry professor and Folding@home program lead. "Thanks to the PS3, we have performed simulations in the first few weeks that would normally take us more than a year to calculate. We are now gearing up for new simulations that will continue our current studies of Alzheimer's and other diseases."

Sony said it plans in the future to support a wider variety of distributed computing projects across the medical and social sciences and environmental studies fields.

Emma Boyes reported for GameSpot UK.

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