People who buy Sony's new PlayStation 3 (PS3) console, which hit US stores yesterday, could help search for a cure to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's by connecting their machines to the Internet.
The new PS3 machines are as powerful as supercomputers and have the potential to help Stanford University researchers speed up analysis of complex human protein structures, according to Nanako Kato of Sony's gaming arm, Sony Computer Entertainment.
When the program -- dubbed Cure@PLAYSTATION 3 -- is launched, PS3 owners will be able to contribute by registering their machines with Stanford, downloading specially designed software and leaving their machines online to process data when they're not playing.
"The PlayStation 3 system is a console with a conscience," said a release issued by Sony and Stanford in August. ``The Cure@PLAYSTATION 3 project will potentially transform the way medical research is conducted.''
Similar programs are in place where personal computer owners help process data for analyzing signals from outer space for signs of extraterrestrial life, and PCs also already contribute to the Stanford medical research program.
The university's research time could be up to 20 times faster with a global network of PS3s, which are fitted with advanced CELL processors that can perform billions of calculations per second, according to Sony.
The Stanford team, led by Professor Vijay Pande, is studying how proteins in human cells interact or malfunction to bring on cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other crippling and fatal diseases.
The program will kick off after the PS3 becomes available globally, Kato said.
PS3, the much-awaited update to Sony's popular PlayStation series, went on sale in Japan last Saturday. It was set to launch in the US yesterday and in Europe in March.