Weaponizing PlayStation

Posted: September 8, 2008 in 2008, Articles
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Weaponizing PlayStation

March 9, 2008: The U.S. Air Force is buying 300 PlayStation 3 game consoles. Not to play games, but because it’s the cheapest way to get the powerful processors that create the photorealistic graphics for PlayStation games. Air force researchers want to use these processors (similar to the ones found in high end video cards) to build faster computers for military use. The CPU manufacturer was not willing to sell the PlayStation processor separately, at least for a reasonable price. So it was easier to just buy PlayStation 3s.

This use of video game electronics, for other purposes, is nothing new. Military researchers began doing this sort of thing in the late 1990s with graphic processors. This led to the introduction last year of modified graphic cards, which produce supercomputer type results, but at a very low cost. These were basically Nvidia 8800 graphic cards tweaked to just crunch numbers (one card equals half a teraflop of computing power). Each of these PCI cards costs about $1,500. For under $20,000 you have yourself a four teraflop supercomputer, and it looks like just another PC. By building this kind of computing power into weapons systems (like sonars and radars), you can improve their performance (speed and accuracy) enormously. This kind of computing power also makes UAVs and other robotic systems much smarter, even when they are under the control of a human operator.

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