PS3 Saves the World?

Cliff Edwards

OK, you may not exactly save the world with Sony's newest game console (unless you've mastered Resistance: Fall of Man) but there are ways to help. Sony Computer Entertainment America and Stanford University just announced the first of what looks to be a number of collaborative efforts over the next few years to harness the power of the PlayStation 3's Cell processor architecture to solve dire medical issues.

In the next couple of weeks or so, people who've connected the PS3 to the Internet can plug into a distributed computing program by clicking on Stanford's Folding@home icon, which will show up on the Cross Media Bar. The application, aimed at studying the causes of Parkinson's,
Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and several forms of cancer, runs automatically in conjunction with other PS3s and computers to perform complex simulations whenever the PS3 is idle.

It's for a good cause, but I wonder if the reality will live up to the fanfare with which the program was announced. The gamers I know tend to shut down their system when not in use. What's more, of the 2 million or so PS3s sold to date, only about 500,000 owners have bothered with an Internet connection.

The PS3 may indeed be a powerful tool for such research, but it will require a somewhat radical change in owner behavior to harness it.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.