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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  • Kalessian - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Just having another core won't create the kind of uber-physics a dedicated PPU could bring.

    When I think about it, physics IS just going to become more and more demanding. Imagine the limits to physics in a game today. I don't develope games, but I can see of a developer saying "Darn, I wish I could make our physics do this... that would be so awesome."

    Maybe that kind of thinking will make the PPU a reality. All it would really take, after a standard is established in the APIs, is one great game. Imagine if you saw some crazy physics in Quake 4. Everyone would want one.

    It's not hard to imagine, but it's wishful thinking.
  • Tarumam - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    #4 It would make sense to integrate it in video cards as an extra feature. But could it be integrated into the GPU? I think it would have to come as an extra chip onboard, with it's own memory subsystem, thus making the card very large, expensive and power hungry (as if the current crop of high end video cards were not already too big, too expensive and power guzzlers).
  • Tarumam - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    In Soviet Russia PPU stands for phisicaly process YOU! Sorry, bad one, but I couldn't help it.
  • Tarumam - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Ops, sorry about that blank post.
    I doubt it will ever take off. Dual core processors are just around the corner and the second core could just be dedicated to the phisics entirely while the other would take care of the rest.Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's just not necessary.
  • knitecrow - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    I don't think PPU is going to be sucessful unless its intergrated into directX ... or standardised in some way that is supported by microsoft.

  • Tarumam - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

  • Falloutboy - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    interesting concept I don't think it would fly as a standalone card. but I could see the technolgy being licenced to nividia and Ati to intergrate into future chips.
  • aurellie1 - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    First p...argh
  • bldckstark - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Okay, for real. What we really need is a $1000 video card with sound and a PPU on board! That would be great. Then in order to be a gamer you will have to rob banks to afford the technology required to enjoy the experience. I can't wait for the $10,000,000,000 virtual reality card!
  • bldckstark - Friday, March 11, 2005 - link

    Pirst Fost! Yup, I'm a Jackass!

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