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Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:30

Xbox cheaper than parallel processing hardware

Written by Nick Farell


Image

Unless they red ring of death of course

 

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 simulations 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 speed, as well as the relative ease of visualization of the system, he wrote.

Nick Farell

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