At last year's Tokyo Game Show, Ken Kutaragi gave a keynote address that contained little new PlayStation 3 information. It did, however, outline how the PS3's massive computing power would be used for an altruistic endeavor called the Folding@home Project.
Organized by Stanford University, the Folding@home Project is similar to the University of California-Berkeley's SETI@home project. The latter effort uses idling PCs linked to the Web as a "virtual supercomputer" to help the SETI Project search for extraterrestrial life.
The Folding@home Project will do something similar. It will integrate idling, online PS3s into a distributed-computing project studying the causes of various diseases. Among the ailments under investigation are Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cystic fibrosis, and various cancers.
"Millions of users have experienced the power of PS3 entertainment. Now they can utilize that exceptional computing power to help fight diseases," Masayuki Chatani, Sony Computer Entertainment's chief technical officer, said in a statement. "In order to study protein folding, researchers need more than just one supercomputer, 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--[the] PS3."
Folding@home Project functionality will be included in the 1.6 PS3 firmware update, which is due out at the end of the month. After installing the update, PS3 owners who wish to join the project will be able to find the Folding@home Project under the network menu of the PS3's XrossMediaBar (XMB). PS3s will only join the Folding@home Project network when in an idle state while connected to the Internet.