Introduction

If you believe the more tabloid-oriented hardware news sites, 16 months ago you would have thought that ATI and NVIDIA were at an all out war. Harsh phrases were flung, benchmarks were beat to death, and both sides plotted for motherboards with a third x16 PCIe slot in order to have a GPU dedicated to physics. Yes, 2006 was sure an exciting time for GPU-accelerated physics, and then the party came to a grinding halt.

Over in the Ageia camp, 2005 saw them kick off the whole subject of hardware accelerated physics with their announcement of plans to develop the PhysX hardware. 2006 saw the launch of that hardware, and while it had initial promise there was a failure to follow through with games that meaningfully used the hardware. Much like with the GPU camp, Ageia has been keeping a low profile so far this year.

To be fair, much of this is aligned with the traditional gaming seasons; titles are often loaded in to the 4th quarter for the Christmas season, leaving few games - and by extension few new uses of physics - to talk about. But it's also indicative of a general dampening of spirit for hardware accelerated physics, things have not gone as planned for anyone. Now in 2007, some 2 years after Ageia's announcement got the ball rolling, the number of released AAA titles using some sort of hardware physics acceleration can still be counted on one hand.

So what happened to the enthusiasm? It's not a simple answer as there's no single reason, but rather a combination of reasons that have done a very good job dampening things. Today we'll take a look at these reasons, the business behind all of this, and why as the days tick by hardware accelerated physics keeps looking like a pipe dream.

GPU Physics
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  • Sunrise089 - Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - link

    Plus since most titles are GPU limited (and with more cores and very overclockable Intel chips will only become more so) it might be better to send the Physics stuff to the idle CPU cores rather than the saturated GPU, regardless of what offers ideal performance. Reply
  • KeithP - Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - link

    We need a standard API so that a variety of solutions would be possible. All a manufacturer would then need to do is write drivers to interface with their hardware.

    -KeithP
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