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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  • DerekWilson - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    The PPU will use GDDR3 at very high speeds. It needs the bandwidth and this adds cost. Also, since AGEIA will be starting at lower volume than NVIDIA and ATI, they will likely have a higher cost per part. Risk to OEMs and vendors will mean more pad in the price.

    #21: I was using the fact that plasma has been around since before I was born and wasn't adopted for actual use until a few years ago. I was illustrating the idea and technology existed but wasn't used.
  • Zan Lynx - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    I think this PPU is a good idea. I would probably get one for Unreal 3 if the price is less than $200.

    I hope that this company releases hardware programming information. That way this card could be used by things other than games and physics. When you aren't playing games, imagine it being used to boost your Folding@Home scores or building Fyre screensaver animations.

    Scientists could buy one for every node in their university cluster and get crazy with the fluid dynamics simulations.
  • REMF - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    why should it cost so much?

    a 160m transistor 6600GT with 128MB of high speed GDD2 ram costs less than £120 these days.

    a 120m transistor PPU with 128MB of moderately high speed ram should cost less than £100 today.

    when you consider the cost of 2x 6800GT's for an SLI rig (£500), £100 is a drop in the ocean.

  • Shinei - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    I like the idea, but I think the price is going to hurt it, not to mention the idea of a standalone device that only works in video games. I DO think that Cell will be a worthy competitor to this, so long as someone takes the time to turn one of the SPU subcomponents into a hardcore physics processor.
  • bersl2 - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    #6: STFU. 3dfx used Glide, a derivative API of OpenGL. Things happen independently of MS in computer technology, although that apparently is beyond the comprehension of some people.

    I wonder how complicated a model it will be capable of. I would hope that they would implement electro-magnetism and maybe thermodynamics to some degree for consumer models, but could this have great scientific value for at least the subset of physics that we are absolutely confident about (i.e., not quantum mechanics or astrophysics)? I could see this being very useful for fluid dynamics.
  • gibhunter - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    You know, in some countries PPU might be confused with PUPU or in English, shit. I wish they came up with a different acronym. How about a GPPU for a Geometric Physics Processing Unit or something like that. PPU just smells...pun intended:-D
  • bupkus - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    After Longhorn M$ may want to target a UI which uses a PPU, then every motherboard will have one. BTW, only the first chip is really expensive.
  • Warder45 - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    $$$ Equal to a video card? Thats pretty vague. Equal to a sub-$150 video cards? That I could handle, equal to $300+ video cards, now your asking too much.

    I like the idea, and with support from Unreal 3 and all licenceing deals with the Unreal 3 engine they have a good start. Now just price them right.
  • Quanticles - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    This is definitely going to happen. Everyone loves the game physics and they're required to make things realistic.

    It's too expensive to incorporate into a graphics card, not to mention it would be stealing bandwidth from them.

    I'd imagine these chips would be built into high end motherboards as well as being sold as stand alone PCIe cards. Not every motherboard would want to add this chip as it's really expensive, so it'd also have to be available as a stand-alone card.

    You cannot integrate your graphics card and sound card into a single board because there wont be enough room on the PCB. Only Apple uses graphics cards with large enough PCB's.
  • MadAd - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    like a plasma television..(blah blah)???

    Its not like we cant get television without a plasma, there are many television devices but if the best a CPU can do is a few hundred bones a time (and a PPU will radicaly improve it) then its not really a fair measure is it?

    sorry to bitch but that was a poor comparison

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