A new study by a University of Warwick researcher shows that using Xboxes are a cheaper alternative to other forms of parallel processing hardware.
Dr Simon Scarle, a researcher in the University of
Warwick's WMG Digital Laboratory, was working on a computer model how
electrical excitations in the heart moved around damaged cardiac cells in order
to investigate or even predict cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal electrical
activity in the heart which can lead to a heart attack).
Normally he would have to book time on a dedicated
parallel processing computer or spend thousands on a parallel network of PCs. However he was once a Software Engineer at the
Warwickshire firm Rare which was part of Microsoft Games Studios and knew about
the parallel processing power of Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) of the XBox
360. He was convinced that this chip could, for a few hundred
pounds, be employed to conduct much the same scientific modelling as several
thousand pounds of parallel network PCs.
In an article with the catchy title "Implications of
the Turing completeness of reaction-diffusion models, informed by GPGPU
on an XBox 360: Cardiac arrhythmias, re-entry and the Halting problem"
he shows how researchers could save a bomb. Although major reworking of
any previous code framework
is required, the Xbox 360 is a very easy platform to develop for and
this cost can
easily be outweighed by the benefits in gained computational power and
as well as the relative ease of visualization of the system, he wrote.