Sony Announces Folding@Home for PS3

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Although Sony intimated last summer it planned to let PlayStation 3 owners use those powerful Cell processors for good (well, “good” other than gaming), the company made it official today: by the end of March, a Folding@Home client will be added to the Network menu in the PlayStation 3’s Xross Media Bar (XMB).

Folding@Home is a distributed computing project run out of Stanford University designed to study the complex ways in which proteins assemble themselves—called “folding” how those actions relate to the development and treatment of serious diseases. The process of protein folding (and mis-folding) is incredibly complex and is not yet fully understood by medical science; protein folding research has direct implications for diseases ranging from cancer and Parkinson’s Disease to Mad Cow disease, Alzheimers, and ALS.

“Millions of users have experienced the power of PS3 entertainment. Now they can utilize that exceptional computing power to help fight diseases,” said Masayuki Chatani, Sony Computer Entertainment’s Corporate Executive and CTO. “In order to study protein folding, researchers need more than just one super computer, but the massive processing power of thousands of networked computers. Previously, PCs have been the only option for scientists, but now, they have a new, more powerful tool—PS3.”

Sony claims the PS3’s Cell/B.E. processor is roughly 10 times caster than a standard PC’s CPU for the intensive floating point calculations involved in simulating protein folding.

With the PS3 Folding@Home client, users will be able to join the Folding@Home program (for free) and contribute to the project by clicking the Folding@Home icon, or configuring the client to run whenever the PS3 system is idle. Users will need to connect their PS3s to the Internet to connect to the project, download worksets, and return results.

Sony says it plans to support additional distributed computing projects in environmental, medical, and social science.

“We’re thrilled to have SCE be part of the Folding@home project,” said Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home project lead. “With PS3 now part of our network, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world’s most life-threatening diseases.”