The computational power and speed of the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console could potentially save thousands of dollars in research costs associated with parallel processor computing.
A new study has emerged from the University of Warwick (WMG Digital Laboratory) indicating that researchers trying to model a range of scientific processes can harness the strengths of an XBox chip as a much cheaper alternative to other forms of parallel processing hardware.
It wasn’t purely a happy accident or mere guesswork that led to this discovery — Dr Simon Scarle of the University of Warwick who is behind this study, once worked in the computer games industry. He used to be a software engineer at Rare Ltd, part of Microsoft Games Studios.
During his time there, Dr Scarle noticed the parallel processing power of Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) of the XBox 360. He was convinced that this could be utilized to perform the same scientific simulations as very expensive parallel network PCs.
Dr Scarle was able to test out this idea when he wanted to model how electrical excitations in the heart moved around ravaged cardiac cells in order to help investigate or even predict abnormal electrical activity in the heart which can lead to a heart attack (cardiac arrhythmias).
The results of Dr Scarle’s study can be found in the journal ‘Computational Biology and Chemistry.’