A PlayStation 3 firmware update at the end of this month will remove Life with PlayStation, the app that allowed PS3 owners to contribute to Stanford University's Folding@home distributed computing project. Folding@home leveraged the processing capacity of networked computers and PS3s to simulate protein folding, ultimately to help researchers study diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer.

'The PS3 system was a game changer for Folding@home'

It's not clear why Sony is removing the functionality. A post to the official European PlayStation Blog simply says that the Life with PlayStation app will cease to function as of November ahead of the October 23rd firmware update that blocks new signups. Stanford's Folding@home research lead Vijay Pande said "The PS3 system was a game changer for Folding@home, as it opened the door for new methods and new processors, eventually also leading to the use of GPUs."

Over 15 million users took part in the project, contributing a total of over 100 million computation hours. The official Folding@home site says that the PS3's unusual Cell processor was uniquely suited to the task and offered computational speeds far in advance of typical PCs or competing consoles like the Xbox 360.