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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  • patrick0 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    Only usefull for games?
    Can someone explain this one to me please.

    I can imagine so many programs the PPU could be usefull for. Sound Effects?! Does anyone here have any idea about the power you need to do a lot of SFX at the same time? With a PPU you could easilly build a cheap sound-studio at home. (if someone tells Steinberg how to use them of course).

    I guess they will sell them sub $150 (maybe sub $200 the first month).
    I'm willing to spend $300-$350 if it's really capable of doing what they say it does.
    Reply
  • patrick0 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    a PPU is a need. No CPU not even quad-core one is capable of processing the amount of data this PPU seems to be able to.
    It seems to take a long time untill we'll have 256-bit memory interface on a mobo, simply because of cost.

    Personal, I'ld love to be able to buy an add-in card with a PPU.
    Probably the PPU will seed up gaming more than SLI. Many games are CPU dependent (all games with SLI). A PPU takes of processing from both the CPU and the GPU.

    They say they will make them as PCI an PCIe x4, just hope the PCIe will be compatible with PCIe x1 or the SLI slot, because you'll need a lot of bandwidth!
    Reply
  • Regs - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    A more interesting thought is to see if Nvidia can some how create their own PPU and connect it via a SLI set up. One gpu connect to a ppu unit on SLI. Now that's a reason to get a PCI-x nvidia motherboard!

    Like Anand stated in his web-blog, I don't imagine ATi or Nvidia will be sitting on the side line for this one much more longer. Like all successful businesses, it all starts with a good idea and a educated risk.
    Reply
  • archcommus - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    Well when 3D hardware acceleration was new, it was an option you turned on and off. If you had a card, you turned it on and got better graphics and speed. If you left it off, things looked a little worse and were a bit slower. Fast forward to now and you need 3D hardware acceleration for everything. I imagine the same will occur with PPU cards. At first it'll be an option that, when turned on, creates better phsyics and better speed. But of course, you could turn it off, to get slightly lesser physics and probably slower speed.

    I am excited about the possibilities of this, too, but damn, I really don't like thinking that another card will be necessary in our future. And like I said before, this is a game that will ONLY come in handy for games, and nothing else, unlike video cards and sound cards and everything else in your computer. So if you buy a PPU card for the next big game, play it and love it, and then don't really play much for a few months, you might be thinking "Damn, why'd I drop 200 bucks for that dumb thing, it's not even being used now!"

    Anyone else with this line of thought?
    Reply
  • jrussel316 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    dang it sorry double post - anyone know how to edit previous posts? Reply
  • jrussel316 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    coming from the standpoint of someone who has some experience writing physics engines, this is some of the best news ive heard in a while. It would be downright awesome to have a hardware accellerated sdk that would allow me to code the sort of realism iv'e been dreaming about coding for years. Iv'e made several attempts at an accurate physical world, but every time i try the performance of my cpu just can't keep up with the huge number of calculations. I know im excited about this kind of performance - i cant imagine what the physics engine developers over at ubisoft and epic are dreaming up. exciting times are ahead Reply
  • jrussel316 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    coming from the standpoint of someone who has some experience writing physics engines, this is some of the best news ive heard in a while. It would be downright awesome to have a hardware accellerated sdk that would allow me to code the sort of realism iv'e been dreaming about coding for years. Iv'e made several attempts at an accurate physical world, but every time i try the performance of my cpu just can't keep up with the huge number of calculations. I know im excited about this kind of performance - i cant imagine what the physics engine developers over at ubisoft and epic are dreaming up. exciting times are ahead Reply
  • Regs - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    I think this is a great idea and it will take off. Anand's article mentioned that these cards will scale like video cards. Meaning there will be intro based, main-stream based, and hardcore based cards ranging from price. Hell, even adding a intro based card to your system with the upcoming Unreal Engine will help improve framerates and add more reality to your gameplay. Ubisoft and Epic are two huge producers of next generation software as well. Far Cry 2 and Unreal 3 anyone? I could only imagine! Valve and Carmack are likely craving over this as well. With dual cores and PPU's coming out, this would be exactly the right type of motivation big-time developers such as these to start writing yet even more advanced gaming engines. I wouldn't be surprised if they all ready started programming the next big thing. Even D3 and HL2 were years in development before we even heard about them. Far Cry we didn't even hear about it before just a few months before its release. Exciting times are ahead! Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    #20... no dual core will NOT make this PPU worthless. You didn't read ANYTHING did you? Current CPU's can work with 30 to 40 solid body objects at one time... this PPU can handle 30 to 40 THOUSAND solid body objects at one time. Double the CPU's capability to 60 to 80 still doesn't compare to the PPU's capabilities. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, March 12, 2005 - link

    #34... they don't have to code specifically for this PPU. All they hvae to do is use the NovodeX physics engine like Epic is doing right now with the Unreal 3 engine. Reply

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