BBC NEWS | Technology | Xbox speeds up research results
Researchers have harnessed the powerful silicon chips used in the Xbox 360 console to solve scientific conundrums.
Academics at the University of Warwick believe they are the first to use the processors as a cheap way to conduct "parallel processing".
Parallel computing is where a number of processors are run in tandem, allowing a system to rapidly crunch data.
Researchers traditionally have to book time on a dedicated "cluster" system or splash out setting up a network of PCs.
Instead, the Warwick team harnessed a single Xbox 360 Graphical Processing Unit (GPU). The chip was able to perform parallel processing functions at a fraction of the cost a traditional systems.
Dr Simon Scarle, a researcher on the team, built the system to help him model how electrical signals in the heart moved around damaged cardiac cells.
Dr Scarle, who previously worked as a software engineer at Microsoft's Rare studio, had first hand experience of tapping into the power of GPU technology.
Speaking to BBC News, Dr Scarle said that the the code controlling the chip was modified, so instead of working out graphical calculations, it could perform other ones instead.
"You don't quite get the full whammy of a cluster, but its close," he said.
"Instead of pumping out stunning graphics, it's reworked; in the case of my research, rather than calculating the position of a structure and texture it's now working out the different chemical levels in a cell."