Video games have pushed the computing envelope for years. Ever since Wolfenstein 3D exploded onto the scene in 1992, gaming performance has been a focal point of the performance characteristics of computer systems. In order to compensate for the ever building desire for faster games, graphics card companies began adding 3D acceleration to their hardware portfolio. First came the 3D only add-in card, and then later we saw the birth of the highly integrated GPU combining 2D and 3D functions on one chip.

AGEIA would really like the world to embrace the idea that a discrete PPU will do for physics what the GPU did for graphics. It is true that the complexity of physics in games has been increasing steadily for the past few years. The catalyst has been making physics easier for game developers. Innovations by companies dedicated to physics have produced software physics engines like Havok. This allows game developers to focus on their engines or games while using the latest in real-time physics as a back bone for user interaction.

We’ve seen the joy of ragdolls in recent titles. One of the coolest features of Half-Life 2 is the level of interaction the user has with the world. In any given level, there are plenty of objects to kick, knock or throw around. Who wouldn’t want to be able to play with thousands of objects in any given level rather than tens? What about real looking clothing, hair, or water?

Sure, some approximation of these things can be done on today’s graphics cards. But it’s not yet possible to have characters comb their hands through their hair realistic way. Clothing can’t move or tear like real cloth. Fluids don’t respond to splashes or movement in a proper way. The AGEIA PhysX PPU proposes to bring these features to a game near you.

Why do we need more processing power for physics? Let’s take a look.

Game Physics and the PhysX PPU
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  • GoHack - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    "From lordanubis:
    From GoHack: "as well as in the fields of science and engineering."

    THANK YOU! I can't believe it took until page 3 before someone mentioned this. PPU will be as "game-only" as graphics cards are. ATI's Fire stuff, nVidia's quadro stuff, none of them are meant for playing games despite the fact that they are 3D graphics accelerators.

    Physical simulation demands a lot of processing power, think of all the rivets in a bridge, wind's effect on large buildings, or accurate computer simulations of car crashes. So much interaction of different pieces, each with their own properties.

    I'm not claiming this PPU will turn a workstation into a $1,000,000 Cray but added functionality is always welcomed."

    I'm an engineer who uses FEA (finite element analysis)(ANSYS), as well as CAD (computer aided design)(Solid Works) all the time. Any improvements are more than welcome.
    Reply
  • lordanubis - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    From GoHack: "as well as in the fields of science and engineering."

    THANK YOU! I can't believe it took until page 3 before someone mentioned this. PPU will be as "game-only" as graphics cards are. ATI's Fire stuff, nVidia's quadro stuff, none of them are meant for playing games despite the fact that they are 3D graphics accelerators.

    Physical simulation demands a lot of processing power, think of all the rivets in a bridge, wind's effect on large buildings, or accurate computer simulations of car crashes. So much interaction of different pieces, each with their own properties.

    I'm not claiming this PPU will turn a workstation into a $1,000,000 Cray but added functionality is always welcomed.
    Reply
  • archcommus - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    #55, if you buy a high-end video card, even though you only need it for intensive apps, you're still using it for everything, even basic 2D stuff. Plus, the high-end features of it can be used for gaming, rendering, and a number of other things.

    With this, it's JUST gaming. I haven't seen proof of another definite use of it yet.

    A device in your computer that is needed for gaming and nothing else = THUMBS DOWN!
    Reply
  • GoHack - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    It's not just games that could benefit, but computer animated movies, flight simulators, as well as in the fields of science and engineering.

    Until you see the comparison of a game running with and without a PPU, don't write off.

    When talking about cpu's, wait until you start to see games written in 64 bit, but that's another story.
    Reply
  • sandorski - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    #18 Yup, this could be the next big thing. It's been awhile since 3D Graphics was introduced revolutionizing Gaming. Though many great advances have occurred and many more ae yet to be realized, Game Physics is becoming Hardware intensive and will only continue to push the limits of Hardware Tech. Not only will this Free up CPU and other Hardware resources, it will greatly increase Physics capabilities of current computers more than (likely) a few new generations of CPUs.

    Bring it on!
    Reply
  • linkgoron - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    #53 a 6800ultra(or any high-end/midrange card) is almost completly usless to most people. Your friends and people here don't see it, but an intel "extreme" is enough for most people. Reply
  • linkgoron - Sunday, March 13, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • archcommus - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    #52, that is exactly why I said it would only be used for games, which is one of the problems I have with this. A device in your computer that is completely useless unless you're gaming. That can't be said for any other device we have today. They ALL have other uses. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    #50... this isn't a CPU... it's a PPU... it's a processor dedicated to calculating physics. It's specifically designed for that, so you shouldn't expect it to do anything else very well at all. That's what allows it to perform so well with physics, it's design is VERY specific... that's why it's so efficient at what it's intended to do. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    At the outset, using the PPU for something other than game physics won't be feasible. As far as we know, they are currently only making the hardware accessible through software physics SDK(s).

    Without a lower level direct hardware API or a straight assembly interface, nothing other the NovodeX functionality can be accelerated.

    They should be cautious in letting out enough details to program straight to the metal (as others could copy them), and generating something as complex as an API at a low enough level for this thing to be more general would be very difficult.
    Reply

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