Murphy's Law: 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.


Article Archive

Murphy's Law: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close