No doubt the Air Force purchasing department gets some odd requests from time to time, but we'd love to have seen the grin on the face of the officer tasked with procuring some 1,700 Playstation 3s for a USAF facility in Rome, NY.
Before you complain about your tax dollars being spent on toys, the machines aren't for gaming. Instead, the facility -- an Air Force research lab -- will join them into a parallel-computing cluster that, when complete, will number well over 2,000 PS3s.
The supercomputer -- snappily monikered "500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster" -- will be put to work playing 2,000 simultaneous games of God of War III. Wait, no. Among other things, they'll be attempting to simulate the way the human brain processes information and how it pulls off the remarkably difficult task of recognizing the content of images.
"Humans can routinely do these things, but a computer struggles to do it," the facility's computing director Mark Barnell told Stars and Stripes. "In a general sense, we are interested in making it autonomous."
The cluster won't be as powerful as a regular supercomputing rig, but it will be cheaper and more environmentally friendly: it'll consume as much as 95% less electrical power and shut down unused machines when the cluster isn't running at full capacity.