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Former Rare Dev: Xbox 360 GPU Can Help Study Heart Disease

A researcher at the University of Warwick has demonstrated that hardware found in Microsoft's Xbox 360 console can be used as a cheaper alternative to study heart disease and predict conditions that result in heart attacks.
A researcher at the University of Warwick has demonstrated that hardware found in Microsoft's Xbox 360 console can be used as a cheaper alternative to study heart disease and predict conditions that result in heart attacks. Dr. Simon Scarle, a former software engineer at the Microsoft-owned game development studio Rare Ltd., notes that the parallel processing power of the Xbox 360's Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) makes it ideal for scientific modeling and biological simulation. Scarle proposed that the Xbox 360's GPU could model the behavior of damaged cardiac cells as they respond to electrical excitations. The results can be used to predict cardiac arrhythmias, which can lead to heart attacks. Scarle adds that researchers currently need to reserve an on-site parallel processing computer or spend thousands of pounds on a parallel network of PCs in order to perform such studies. The Xbox 360 hardware, he says, costs significantly less, and porting necessary software is an easy process. "This is a highly effective way of carrying out high end parallel computing on 'domestic' hardware for cardiac simulations," Scarle said. "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." The results of Scarle's study have been published in the journal Computational Biology and Chemistry as "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." [Image and quote credit: The University of Warwick.]

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