Crunching@Home

16 04 2007

Gamesindustry.biz has an intriguing tidbit on potential plans for the PS3 given the success of Folding@Home on the console:

“We are discussing various options with companies and exploring commercial applications,” said Sony’s chief technology officer, Masa Chatani.

“A start-up or a pharmaceutical company that lacks a super-computer could utilise this kind of infrastructure,” detailed Chatani.

While the Folding@home service is for research purposes, any commercial possibilities would need to offer a reward or incentive for PS3 users to take part. The report suggests free products could be a possibility.

Offering virtual items in exchange for commercially lucrative processor cycles would be devilish genius. Given the largely altruistic nature of distributed data processing so far though, I wonder about the politics of offering the service to a market.

Will people be able to pick and choose what they contribute GHz to, or will the nature of the data processed be completely opaque? While the objective cost of running something technically akin to Folding@Home is small, something about the idea of earning a reward in return for a donation of unknowable subjective cost makes me a little uneasy.

With total freedom, the service would naturally expedite a certain amount of unethical corporate behaviour. Would there be any form of check in terms of data transparency for users or Sony? Even if commercial data is shrouded from users but Sony demand a peek at it, I wonder how easy it would be for client companies to sneak stuff through. I suspect it would take the leaking of something truly incendiary to make it a problem that PSHome swag couldn’t offset.

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