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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  • HorseFly - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Wonder why don't they just build mobo without agp, pci-e slot, just adding on mobo with duel core then you'll be a happy camper :)That way it'll be cheaper. right :)
  • AnnihilatorX - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    CPU can do everything. But not everything effciently. GPU are decided with a sort of architecture that suits what it suppose to do, and take the load off CPU.

    Same here for a PPU. A dual core might do the job, but would it be as efficient as a specially decided chip? Why not move the load to a PPU while the dual core can do more AI calculations in games?

    An small XDR processor on a RAID card can sherd 50% load of CPU.
  • stephenbrooks - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    While as a programmer I'd like to say that the CPU can do everything, the GPU market has completely disproved that theory. And I think the PPU is going to do the same thing. 32000 rigid bodies is a LOT. Think Matrix-like special effects, here.
  • Jeff7181 - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    I think this is a great idea. It's just not practical for a CPU or GPU to do this type of stuff, just like back in the 286 and 386 days when math co-processors were used. I think in time, CPU's may be able to handle this stuff more efficiently. But for now, with all the bandwidth PCI-Express provides, this sounds like a great solution to take some of the burden off the CPU for physics while increasing the quality of physics engines.

    In an article on GameSpot, they say any game that uses the NovodeX physics engine will be able to make use of this PPU. Guess what new up and coming game engine uses the NovodeX physics engine... Unreal 3! :D
  • alangeering - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    From article:
    "better than Intel’s approach: Cell."

    Confused. Was that meant to be IBM?

    Anyway, what will happen to your physics processor when you laod up a scifi game and jump to "lightspeed"?

    Will it:
    A: Increase your gaming enjoyment through the graphical simulation of the wonderful rippling effects of space time
    B: Nothing
    C: Cause a new breed of fatal error "Fatal Error: You have exceded the boundries of physics"
  • Cameraman - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    I like Kalessian's idea!
  • Kalessian - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Another thought...

    If this doesn't make it to the already mature PC gaming market, why couldn't it be included in some kind of console?
  • ksherman - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    "Or if Intel decides that they need to go the extreme route,"

    Awesomse! I lov the pun in that sentence...
  • PeteRoy - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Arghhh, another way to squeeze money from gamers.

    Hopefully it won't work, gaming computers cost high enough already.
  • jkostans - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    #7, thats like saying we don't need a video card because the second CPU will render the scene instead. The advantage of hardware designed specifically for one purpose is huge. Download the novodex rocket demo and see how the complex scenes bring your single core processor to its knees. (big bang is probably the best example) Now imagine that simulation running at full speed with 2x the objects and 95% of your CPU power left over for everything else. Those bricks could be anything in your game from gravel to explosion particles. And who doesn't want a realistic liquid simulation?

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