The PlayStation 3 is many things, including a Blu-ray deck, an internet terminal and even a games machine, but we'd never imagined it as a prizewinning design – until now.

In fact, the aspect of the PS3 that has been recognised by the guys in polo necks is the collaborative computing Folding@home application, which is being used to number crunch data about disease proteins.

Gold standard

The body giving the prize is the Japanese government's Ministry of International Trade and Industry – its Good Design Award has been an industry benchmark for more than 50 years.

The Stanford University-led Folding@home project aims to harness the idle power of PS3s (and other machines) around the world to effectively create a single supercomputer that can achieve more than a single device.

Social responsibility

Sony explained how it developed the Folding@home application for the PS3: "In fulfilling our corporate social responsibility through entertainment, we focused closely on how to interest PlayStation owners and encourage them to participate.

"Presenting their level of contribution visually, in a straightforward way, led us to discover the new potential in fostering a sense of unity, as more users than expected joined the project."