More than just a game

A revolutionary study by the University of Warwick has demonstrated that scientists attempting to model a range of various computer processes could use the power and capabilities of a specific Xbox chip instead.

This would result in a cheaper alternative to other forms of parallel processing hardware, and has the potential to dramatically increase efficiency in this field.

Leading the study, was Dr Simon Scarle, a researcher in the University of Warwick’s WMG Digital Laboratory who wished to model the way electrical excitations in the heart move around damaged cardical cells. Cells do this in order to investigate and predict possible heart attacks.

Under previous research, simulations have used traditional CPU’s which normally need to book time on a specifically dedicated parrell processing computer or spend thousands on a parrell network of PC’s.

However, Dr Scarle’s new approach was partly based on his previous work experience in the computer games industry.

His role as a software engineer at the Warwickshire firm Rare Ltd, part of the Microsoft Games Studio made him aware of his parallel processing power of the GPU of the Xbox 360.

Using this chip, Scarle was convinced it could conduct the same scientific modelling as the parallel network PC’s, shaving hundreds of pounds of the entire process.

After extensive studies, the results of his work have been published in the journal, Computational Biology and Chemistry, and the GPU can be used by researchers in exactly the same way Scarle envisaged.

However, the research is limited in its application, as the study demonstrates that it is impossible to predict certain dangerous arrhythmias (heart conditions) as it is fallible to a problem known as the Halting problem.

Scarle however, is certain the problem will soon be solved and is researching ways around it.


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