PS3 to help cure disease

Opt-in program will have users' next-gen systems spend their downtime crunching numbers for Stanford University researchers.


Console manufacturers make a lot of claims about their products before launch, but curing disease is a new one. However, it isn't Sony claiming that the PlayStation 3 will be able to help fight diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, and even mad cow disease--it's a group of Stanford University researchers.

According to CNN, the university's Folding@home project will make use of the system's horsepower to run complex calculations that will help researchers better understand the complex process by which proteins form themselves. PS3 owners will be able to participate in the project by downloading a program to the system's hard drive. When it isn't busy playing games, the system will pull a chunk of data from the Folding@home project, crunch numbers, and then give the resulting data back to the researchers. In all, users will need to dedicate 10-20MB of the system's multi-GB hard drive to the program.

"These calculations that we have to do are very challenging," project head Vijay Pande told CNN. "Even if we were given all of the supercomputer resources in the country we still would not be able to do the types of things that we can do with Folding@home."

While this type of distributed computing is new for consoles, PCs have been using the technique for years. Since 1999, the University of California at Berkeley's SETI@home project has been using PC downtime to analyze data culled from radio telescopes in an effort to find narrow-bandwidth radio signals from extraterrestrial technology. Meanwhile, claims to be the Internet's first such distributed computing project, utilizing PC downtime for academic research and public interest projects since 1997.

Passive philanthropists looking to donate their PS3's downtime might want to consider the decision carefully. Launch hardware of gaming systems are sometimes beset by bugs (or at least beset by anecdotal reports of bugs), and having such hardware playing games or crunching numbers nonstop could potentially cause problems.

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Avatar image for kamicolo

RE: Monstromo - I heard of the illness before, and after reading up on it, I realize what a strong person you must be. Keep strong. Thanks to Monstromo, I am considering donating and perhaps participating in the fold@home project

Avatar image for Zero254

This is good wheather its for publicity or not. Now if only America could spens as much money of trying to build a better research center to cure a bone diesease instead of spending trillions of dollars trying to make nuclear bomb research and stuff.

Avatar image for _Sam_

interesting. does the ps3 have a calculator program built in :P

Avatar image for Monstromo

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, I really appreciate it!

Avatar image for jayree05

Cool. I'm all about joining worthy causes.

Avatar image for Dust24311

Monstromo, thank you for taking the time to spell this out for people. I had previously commented that I am a researcher (emerging pathogens), and I found the title "curing disease" to be entirely inaccurate. FYI, a lot of OI research happens at not-for-profit agencies. NFP agencies have the luxury of studying the diseases that actually emotionally effect people, instead of studying what brings in the most $$$. People should contribute their money to such agencies, instead of (or in conjunction with) lending clock cycles to a study model.

Avatar image for metdevthegamer

Monstromo said: "Thanks for listening." Sure you mean "thanks for reading," but regardless nice post. Hope someone finds a cure for OI in the future, sounds pretty bad to have.

Avatar image for stikasasn

GTA is on PSP, so what if the Wii can do it. I dont think they said GTA5 is coming to Wii. could be some stupid GTA based mini games that utilize the Wii-mote.

Avatar image for mariokart64fan

crappy wii lol your fanboy if wii was crappy gta wouldnt be possible on it but it is so its not crappy

Avatar image for Monstromo

I am taking the time to edit my comments. At first, I said this was one of the stupidist things I ever heard. I said that Sony was being shameless in its pursuits of this type of publicity. Since then, I did some research. I still find this to be way for Sony to drum up publicity. But it is not the stupidist thing I ever heard. I followed the links to the fold@home home page and looked at the research pages about folding of human proteins. One area that caught my eye was the claim that this was going to help in researching Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) a collagen disorder. You see, I have it. It is also called brittle bone disease. So really wanted to look further at whether this program could ever actually help me. What I found disappointed me. First, when you try and access the article that this distributing computation produced you can't. Second, when you try and follow the links to research related to OI the links lead you in a circle to nowhere and no information. Third, the research that they are doing is more to help and develop fold@home paradigm calculations and software rather than "groundbreaking" research in the basic science behind protein based diseases. Fourth, I found that fold@home necessarily by its design forecloses the use of programs and technologies that would help the research into the disease that they researching so if a local network of computers and another program or peice of software would help in creating the model and thereby answering questions about the disease that other way is not utilized. So, what I find is that fold@home is a worthy project in and of itself, but it mostly serves its own purposes. That it is really interested in making a better distributed computing model rather than "curing disease." In regards to OI (brittle bone disease) I would rather that PS3 users if they wanted to help those of us with the disease to make a donation to and earmark their money to research involving pamidronate treatment (bone building drug treatment trials and research). This would be far better for OI patients than leaving your PS3 on 24 hours a day. Thanks for listening.

Avatar image for rarson

I do think that to label something like folding@home as "curing disease" is a bit of a stretch. It's great that people can donate their clock cycles to research, but to directly correlate this into a disease cure is fantasy. Research just doesn't work like that. Still, I don't see the harm in such programs. I'm doubtful of the PS3's ability to run constantly but I'm sure the prog won't be too taxing. Still... Sony's quality assurance is non-existant. That's the whole problem right there. Whether or not the software exists may very well be a moot point.

Avatar image for thefjk


Avatar image for chikahiro94

@Chebwa Stupidity is a human trait, sadly. There's something out there that will turn anybody into moron.

Avatar image for manapsal

Wii will cure world hunger and AIDS at the same time...that's right sony, i used to support you but this is ....

Avatar image for capthunt

Beat that you crappy Wii

Avatar image for Kreestas

i wouldnt mind running the program on my ps3

Avatar image for DefunctDave

This was on the bbc news website about 3 weeks ago.

Avatar image for metdevthegamer

I don't know. Cure seems like a longshot, even if the PS3 is so powerful.

Avatar image for Chebwa

Oh yeah, and 'lonewolf_dx...' "Man more rediculas stuff, just like when rumors came out that the PS2's Emotion Engine can power nuclear bombs..." This isn't a RUMOR buddy, Folding@home has been around for a long time. You can download it for your PC right now. Totally "rediculas," man!

Avatar image for Chebwa

Wow. I can't believe there's still people saying the things they are saying on here. So an optional program for the PS3 becomes available to help in the research of disease, and somehow the idiots who frequent Gamespot find ways to sound off negatively on it. WOW. If only the mods here banned people for being outright stupid. The only thing anyone here could possibly say about this is that the PS3 is most likely painfully fragile and may not like being left on to process 24/7. Outside of that, stop trying to start trouble. It's making you look ridiculous.

Avatar image for diablobasher

Nice idea, but as the guy below me, Dust243111 said, this really isnt gonna cure anything anytime soon, its just a way of getting their data through quicker so they can use some big words in the next fad diet program.

Avatar image for Acobb8787

Where do I sign up? Sounds like a really cool idea.

Avatar image for Dantes_Monkey

meh...not gonna cure any illnesses but still kiinda cool. Sounds like that SETI screensaver i used to use.

Avatar image for princeofgames90

you know after loooking at this nothing changed nether + / - i mean i am a fanboy ok and for the 2000 the playstation 2 was the best and all you haters i am shure that you bought one didn't you

Avatar image for Dust24311

I'm a scientist (emerging pathogenic research), and these programs are total bunk. These programs have been running on PCs for over a decade, and work more to analyze past data, or prove an unsubstantiated project model, than "cure" any disease. If you want to cure a disease, become a researcher, or donate money to a non-profit research organization.

Avatar image for Autolycus

its true people do hate sony that much ...and they hate the sony fanboys even more for being so ignorant. Yes its good that it can help people. No its NOT GOOD that they are training people with it. What surgery with a ps3 controller? How are you going to tell if you rub up against something you shouldnt. It doesnt rumble. Tell ya what, when you need a surgery, good luck trying to figure out if the doctor has done it in real life, or only with a controller

Avatar image for Pablo620

I cant believe people hate Sony so much that when something from Sony is just going to aid people fight cancer the hate continues. Wow, even Greece, Sparta, and all the other countries at war would put down their weapons when the Olympics came around. You fanboys are pathetic

Avatar image for thekey

Propaganda at its finest.

Avatar image for shizwill03

O.o;; ...... Ehh, I will join....but it sounds fishy like. GOVERNMENT FISHY. o.O;;

Avatar image for Benshki

I probably care as much as a fat guy walking past the diet food section of a shop.

Avatar image for anamnawshad


Avatar image for Lord_Regnier

IGN posted this news a long time ago. But still great news:)

Avatar image for ragin_massaih

What a load of monkey balls!

Avatar image for GFofgaming

I am gonna join the program, but not 24 hrs.

Avatar image for watercandle

EXACTLY the same gimmick that PS2 had. Who the hell cares?

Avatar image for vamroc

If you leave a PS3 on for longer a day or two odd are the internal sensor shut it down when it gets to hot. Or if it's defective the system will catch fire and stop working. Either outcome is not a welcomed one who's gonna care about there heart when they paid over $600 for a machine that's burning down the house

Avatar image for vamroc

Do you remember when Saddam Hussein was caught buying a mass shipment of PS2's so he could build super computers. It seems if you networked like two hundred of them together it would have a enough processing power runs tests on simulated nuclear device's. No joke it's all true the shipment was intercepted by U.S. custum agents when the buyer was deemed The Wacky Iraqi himself.

Avatar image for rarson

"Dont you ever feel that you've wasted your life playing a game?" No, I live my life to enjoy it. The only occasions when time is wasted playing a game is when the game sucks, and in that case I typically don't spend a lot of time on the game.

Avatar image for chikahiro94

@Heart_Disease Nobody needs to have their computer (or console) on 24/7 for this to work, and I'm sure if that project had the budget to do everything themselves, they would've.

Avatar image for boo_dat

Okay...I guess this is good news...I was cured of cancer when I was 2 yrs old...never hurts to have Sony helping the cause.

Avatar image for yugimasa9999

What's in relation to curing disease?

Avatar image for Heart_Disease

It's a nice idea, but unfortunately it's not going to be practical for most people concerned with their electric bill. The ps3 is likely going to consume more power than a standard desktop PC (when actively computing something), and after the first coupe months of leaving it running, mommy and daddy will tell little tommy to turn it off when he's not playing because they want that extra ~$20/month (or whatever). They could do this sort of thing with the 360, and likewise you'd probably have a big electric bill (maybe not quite as high). I don't like to put the university down for a noble cause, but they're basically asking ps3 owners to pay for their research rather than buy a bunch of systems themselves. If people are ok with that, then cool. But they're making it sound like progress will be made for free, and Nothing is free -including your outlets kids.

Avatar image for SM2099

"First we try... then we trust."

Avatar image for bigpimppapa

Yeah and I have some magic beans I got from some dude named JACK

Avatar image for chikahiro94

@K1LLSWITCH What happens is your client downloads a chunk of data to process/analyze/etc. It works on it as its able to, and uploads the finished data when its done. Every little bit helps, so don't worry about it too much. Check out their website for a description of what they're researching - << LINK REMOVED >> It's good stuff, and by this time next year there could be millions of PS3's (and hopefully Wii's and 360's) running folding@home. Even if its just part time, that's a lot of processing power :)

Avatar image for rarson

Well I agree, but as far as price and problems, Blu-Ray IS complicating things. If they had stuck a normal DVD drive in the PS3, then they probably wouldn't have had to delay it, the console would be cheaper, and the lasers would be more reliable... uh, well hopefully they would be, since Sony has already made DVD lasers for years now. The only reason the system has a BD-ROM drive is so that Sony can force it into the marketplace. PS3 games don't , not a disadvantage.

Avatar image for K1LLSWITCH

By crunching numbers from users' hard drives while in down time, what exactly are they researching in order for them to need our drive space? And if I wanted to use my PS3 again, kicking it off of down time mode for instance, will it dramatically effect the research if the drive space from millions of users keep fluctuating up and down?

Avatar image for JoeyDrey

I do believe that one on suggested that they would specifically buy a PS3 for this function, so anyone who said that they are buying a PS3 for just the games is being an ass about this. Dont you ever feel that you've wasted your life playing a game? Well, here's your chance to give back dammit!

Avatar image for chikahiro94

@rarson Given all the very public problems they've been having, I'd expect to improve very soon. Not much can be done for hte PS3, though, Blu-Ray or not: The system will be at its most expensive at launch, but also at its lowest production numbers and lowest reliability. Buying any system at launch is asking for problems, regardless of system.

Avatar image for rarson

chikahiro94, thanks for the link. Cool info.