Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced that the next update for its PlayStation 3 console software will be available on Thursday and will include support for the Folding@home distributed computing project from Stanford University.
The PS3 update, classified by Sony as version 1.60, is considered a regular system-software upgrade. With the new functions, the console will now support the use of Bluetooth peripherals such as keyboards and mice. In addition, a full QWERTY keyboard will be displayed onscreen as an alternative to the current single-tap keyboard.
The update will also enhance the console's download power, making it possible for PS3 owners to queue up to six downloads at a time from the PlayStation Store. There's also a new menu for "Download Management," so that the progress of current downloads can be easily tracked.
Additionally, the new PS3 software will support Folding@home, a distributed computing project created by Stanford University in 2000 in order to better understand the process of protein folding and how it correlates to serious diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and various forms of cancer. Research into protein folding, however, requires an enormous amount of computing power. 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.
Now, with the Sony software upgrade, PS3 users will be able to donate their unused processor power to the Stanford research project, via the "Network" icon on the Xross Media Bar (XMB) feature.