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The software giant takes on physics acceleration

ExtremeTech reports Microsoft intends to support physics hardware acceleration with an upcoming version of DirectX. It isn’t too surprising to see Microsoft integrating physics acceleration in its DirectX API; especially with current physics acceleration API’s available from the likes of Havok and Ageia. With ATI, NVIDIA and Ageia offering hardware physics acceleration it was only a matter of time before the software giant attempted to produce a unified physics API. News of Microsoft’s interest in physics acceleration was revealed by a Software Development Engineer job posting on Microsoft’s employment page with the following job description:

“The Windows Graphics and Gaming Technology group is looking for a software design engineer to join a growing team responsible for developing Direct Physics. This team is responsible for delivering a great leap forwards in the way game developers think about integrating Physics into their engines. Physics and real time, accurate simulation is a key part of the next generation gaming experience, bringing increased realism, greater immersion and more interesting experiences.”

The job posting was posted on August 8th, 2005, nearly a year ago before Ageia had its PhysX physics accelerator available on the market and Havok revealed NVIDIA and ATI as supporters of its physics acceleration API. Interestingly enough, Microsoft licensed the Ageia PhysX SDK for its robotics development kit, a totally unrelated matter but one that shows Microsoft is developing experience with physics.

Physics hardware acceleration is becoming the next big thing in gaming since 3dfx launched the original Voodoo 3D graphics accelerator. ATI and NVIDIA’s Havok based physics hardware acceleration approach takes advantages of two graphics cards for physics acceleration whereas Ageia offers an add-in PCI card that does all the physics processing. ATI’s optimal gaming solution involves three graphics cards -- two in CrossFire and one dedicated to accelerating Havok compatible titles. NVIDIA’s plans only use two graphics cards, one for rendering 3D while the other is used for physics acceleration. While ATI and NVIDIA have announced physics hardware acceleration support for Havok’s physics API, neither company has released capable drivers.  Those wanting immediate physics acceleration will have to turn to Ageia and its PhysX card.

There’s no word on when Microsoft will release DirectX with physics acceleration or which companies will support it but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see ATI and NVIDIA support DirectX physics.


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Sounds nice but what about the Xbox 360?
By Staples on 6/21/2006 11:32:55 AM , Rating: 2
It is never good to hear a big announcement like this right after their fixed platform game sytem comes out. The Xbox will take 4+ years to refresh and take advantage of this with a physics processor.




By Rock Hydra on 6/21/2006 11:59:51 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think people will pay the premium of integration of that tech. I don't think it's a worthwhile investment until it has matured a little. Especially after seeing some of the performance numbers w/ the Aegia card.


RE: Sounds nice but what about the Xbox 360?
By Rock Hydra on 6/21/2006 11:59:52 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think people will pay the premium of integration of that tech. I don't think it's a worthwhile investment until it has matured a little. Especially after seeing some of the performance numbers w/ the Aegia card.


By Rock Hydra on 6/21/2006 12:00:17 PM , Rating: 2
AuG! double post


By GoatMonkey on 6/21/2006 12:24:43 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think MS has abandoned development of PC games entirely have they? This will give gamers a reason to continue the upgrade treadmill, and fatten MS's and other companies' wallets.



By glennpratt on 6/21/2006 12:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
So MS should sit on it? And really, hardware physics does nothing for me. The point of developing an API is not just to exploit hardware, it to simplify the basis of a process so people don't reinvent the wheel every time, instead a group can optomize the API while people make games for it. The Xbox 360 has three dual threaded processors, plenty of space for physics most likely.


RE: Sounds nice but what about the Xbox 360?
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 2:01:40 PM , Rating: 2
It takes about 4 years to make a new system. So even if Microsoft had announced this in 2002 they probably wouldn't have support for it in the 360. And don't forget, they still haven't announced it.

And don't forget, the 360 has 3 cores that run with Hyper Threading. That gives them 6 total processors. With all the questions on weather a dual core processor performs on par with a PPU add in there isn't much point in complaining about the lack of built in physics.


By Clauzii on 6/21/2006 7:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
Hyperthreading i's a word used by intel - the Xbox360 uses PPC, so it's another name I think. (allthough for the same thing :)


By saratoga on 6/21/2006 2:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Xbox will take 4+ years to refresh and take advantage of this with a physics processor.


This is an API, not a processor. Although many people think of PPUs, in reality, 90% of this is likely to be done by CPU+GPU.

The 360 will likely get support for this as well when MS updates their developement tools. The 360 is certainly fast enough to do real time physics, though probably not as fast as a dedicated unit could.


Do the people who post these articles get paid?
By rushfan2006 on 6/21/2006 9:32:19 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not being a smart ass here, I'm dead serious. While I've always thought it to be a bit tacky and lame that people post to the boards always calling out the mistakes of the articles, I have to admit they do have a valid point.

The frequency with the typos or sometimes actually missing whole words -- is so high it is nearly every article! While I make tons of typos in my comments (a) its not my job to be a "writer" for an online magazine of sorts, and I'm certainly not paid to do it; (b) IF YOU GUYS WOULD FINALLY ADD A DAMN EDIT BUTTON WE COULD CORRECT OUR OWN TYPOS!!.

So all that said...do these people actually get paid who write the articles we see here on Daily Tech? Or is it like a volunteer, part time/hobby-side thing?

Because I have to tell you, if its a full time -- salary paying, benefit providing type job...then the standards at Daily Tech are dirt low and there is definitely no proofing or QA department/manager -- if there is -- he needs to be fired, like yesterday.

And DailyTech staff -- don't take it as we expect you to never make mistakes ever, but guys --- its EVERY DAMN ARTICLE YOU POST!!! LOL.

Ok I'm done....who's turn for the soap box?

;)




RE: Do the people who post these articles get paid?
By TomZ on 6/21/2006 9:57:55 AM , Rating: 1
I agree, a slightly higher level of professionalism would be appreciated by your readers. It is hard to take a news article seriously that has lots of typos and grammatical errors. I think just some basic proofreading by someone other than the author prior to posting a news article would suffice.


By shadowzz on 6/21/2006 11:29:04 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is hard to take a news article seriously that has lots of typos and grammatical errors.

Don't take it seriously then? It's tech news that happens to be very accurate when compared to el reg, tgdaily and inquirer. It's not like they are asking you to sign up for the army.


By masher2 (blog) on 6/21/2006 10:30:03 AM , Rating: 2
> "The frequency with the typos or sometimes actually missing whole words ..."

Well, the NY Times certainly makes fewer typographic errors. But then the actual content of their science and technology articles is usually questionable to say the least. And Dailytech will usually-- unlike the NY Times-- correct a content error within a few minutes of it being discovered.





By GoatMonkey on 6/21/2006 12:10:18 PM , Rating: 3
They don't need to proofread anything. That's what you guys are for. They'll get spammed with their typos almost instantly after posting.


By Scabies on 6/21/2006 12:11:12 PM , Rating: 2
I dont really mind, the errors I see flying around in office correspondance originally disgusted me ("these people went to school for this? I had better grammer in middle school") but I've just come to accept that some people can think grammatically and remember to check their common typos on the fly, and some cant. Consider that DailyTech may be forgoing intensive (or any) editing in favor of releasing a story faster?

And groupflaming the author for these errors is entirely unnecessary. They do pretty good at editing innacuracies and errors that are pointed out down here in comments. A dissertation on professionality is a bit much.


By Trisped on 6/21/2006 1:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
Unlike other paid writers, DailyTech doesn't have 24hrs to a week to set up and proof read their articles. If I was to guess I would say most of their time is spend reading articles and checking the validity of their news. They then have to write a short blurb with enough detail to be complete, yet simple enough that the "average reader" will be able to understand it. I don't mind the fact that there are all these spelling errors, though I do wish they would type their articles in something with a spell checker.

Also, one of the writers has health issues that limit the amount he can type, so he uses speech recognition software. He does read it back over, but doesn't always catch all the errors.

Personally I feel that spelling errors are fine as long as they correct them when they are pointed out. I also think informative articles that have relatively few spelling errors (no more then 1 in most posts) are worth more then the alternatives.


Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By haris on 6/21/2006 9:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
Any speculation on how DX Physics might affect Aegia's and AMD's new 4x4 plans?




RE: Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By kattanna on 6/21/2006 10:37:41 AM , Rating: 2
hopefully they will code it to see and use any available hardware to help run the code

wether that be a free CPU core/video card/physics card

heck..maybe use all 3 at the same time as load allows...



RE: Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 1:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API
quote:
An application programmatic interface (API) is the interface that a computer system, library or application provides in order to allow requests for services to be made of it by other computer programs, and/or to allow data to be exchanged between them.
So basicly an API is a command set, like the x86 set. A command set indicates what words have meaning and what they mean. So for example if I send the command add EAX,EBX then the processor will take the contents of the EBX register and add it to the EAX register.

So in short, the API will work for all software and hardware that are Direct X compatible.


RE: Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By saratoga on 6/21/2006 2:28:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So basicly an API is a command set, like the x86 set.


Thats not really correct. x86 is an ISA, which is a binary description of the op codes in a processor. An API is much higher level. Its basically a description of the functions, objects, data structures, etc in a software program.

The two are maybe analogous from a high level though.


RE: Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By haris on 6/21/2006 4:38:31 PM , Rating: 2
I just saw a similar news post over a Xbit and their blurb states that the new DX for physics will be for GPU processing only. Guess they plan on axe-ing any chance that Aegia may have had with the PPU.


RE: Affect on Aegia and AMD?
By Clauzii on 6/22/2006 1:02:02 AM , Rating: 2
It wouldn't be impossible to let DX10 see an Ageia card as a GPU :)


lol
By Scabies on 6/21/2006 9:51:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
greater immersion and more interesting experiences .”


see DOAX2 or related




RE: lol
By tuteja1986 on 6/21/2006 11:02:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
see DOAX2 or related


what do you mean by DOAX2 :? Were you thinking about dead or alive xterme 2 XBOX 360 game.


RE: lol
By Scabies on 6/21/2006 12:06:18 PM , Rating: 2
Originally, Beach Volleyball 2 came to mind when trying to think of what microsoft feels physics support could make "interesting." Other than the weird glass multi-window navigation supporting a shatter effect when closing.


RE: lol
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 1:48:32 PM , Rating: 2
Physics processors also allow for more objects to be reactive, like boxes that shatter into pieces when you hit them with explosives, moveable furniture, and more realistic water effects. Physic processors can more accurately detect collisions and determine the correct out come. They can also be used when an enemy is hit with a bullet or goes flying from an explosion. Have you ever played a game where the bodies don't seem to fall to the ground properly, either jumping around in the air or falling partially through the ground? Have you played a game where anyone hit with an explosive is launched 50 feet into the air in the wrong direction, even though the explosive was o minimal power? Physics helps with all of these because it actually does the processing, rather then making and educated guess as we do now.


RE: lol
By IsDanReally on 6/21/2006 12:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'd guess that with a combination of a firmware update and updated dev kits (which presumably put some kind of OS on the game disc) it wouldn't be hard for MS to support this. Having 3 cores makes it easy I would think.


So API = command set?
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 1:13:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
and Havok revealed NVIDIA and ATI as supporters of its physics acceleration API.

quote:
While ATI and NVIDIA have announced physics hardware acceleration support for Havok’s physics API
So ATI is using the command set. That makes sense. I was confused because people kept saying that “ATI is using Havok” which I though meant they were using the Havok FX engine. Now my question is if NVIDIA is using the Havok engine, or just the Havok API.

I think a DirectX API for physics would be nice, but since 2 of the 3 physics providers (even though they still don’t have a working product yet) are using the Havok API I don’t think it is all that important. Still, the Microsoft solution might have a lower license cost which might be better for the community at large.




RE: So API = command set?
By Anh Huynh on 6/21/2006 1:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
The Havok Engine is used in games. ATI and NVIDIA use the Havok API to accelerate the Havok Engine.


RE: So API = command set?
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 2:17:02 PM , Rating: 2
I thought Havok FX was a way of using a SM2.0 GPU to run physics. This implies that it is a complete solution. When NVIDIA contracted (or bought, I forget which) Havok everyone said it sounded like they were just using the Havok system while the ATI system sounded like they were just using the command set, but doing things their own way. It seems from your post you believe that NVIDIA is running its own version, just using the API.

Did you mean "The Havok Engine is used by games." It sounds like you are saying that it is part of the game code, when that is unlikely due to upgrade and multiple user problems.


RE: So API = command set?
By Anh Huynh on 6/21/2006 2:37:30 PM , Rating: 2
HavokFX is a physics engine that uses GPU acceleration. Games have to integrated the HavokFX physics engine and ATI and NVIDIA have to support the acceleration. HavokFX is middleware.


Well, duh.
By geo1 on 6/21/06, Rating: 0
RE: Well, duh.
By IndyJoe on 6/21/2006 10:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
My Guess is DX10 will have a physics API


RE: Well, duh.
By GoatMonkey on 6/21/2006 12:18:06 PM , Rating: 2
It would suggest to me that either MS is good at retaining whoever they hired, or it's on the backburner, or they just don't want to publicize it for some reason. It's possible that MS made a deal with some company to keep it quiet that they are developing this.


RE: Well, duh.
By Trisped on 6/21/2006 1:42:12 PM , Rating: 2
They are developing an API that must be future proof plus provide all the options developers want and hardware providers can provide. That takes time. Since Microsoft has never actually announced that it will be creating a Physics API I expect that they believe it to be more then a year away from completion. Once it is close they will announce it and tell everyone the particulars. Until then there is no point getting everyone's hopes up.


Best use for physics
By rykerabel on 6/21/2006 2:08:12 PM , Rating: 3
Forget explosions and moving boxes and ragdolls. I just want to see some collision detection for models. Nothing I hate more than to see a character's hand dissapear into the clothing he/she is wearing and other similar visual anomolies. To finally see a character with long hair that falls on shoulders instead of dissapearing into their body would please me greatly.

Who cares if a box explodes into 300 parts instead of 30 parts.

Its the little things that matter most.




I don't mind the typos...
By photoguy99 on 6/21/2006 12:22:36 PM , Rating: 2
Usually it would drive me crazy but I don't mind the typos at DT.

It's kind of funny sometimes when someone corrects one or DT posts to admit a mistake.

Also I understand since DT seems like the majority of Internet businesses - a huge amount of work done by a small amount of people who are more passionate than most people at large companies.

Honestly I think it would be a bit less personal if DT was run by a CNN style news room and it would take some of the good out of it.





ATi's Physics
By Rhitick on 6/22/2006 11:35:36 AM , Rating: 2
As I recall ATi doesn't HAVE to have 3 cards for their physics solution. It is a 1+1 or 2+1 solution.




Durr durr
By AppaYipYip on 6/21/06, Rating: -1
RE: Durr durr
By Burning Bridges on 6/21/06, Rating: -1
RE: Durr durr
By MDme on 6/21/06, Rating: -1
RE: Durr durr
By DallasTexas on 6/21/2006 9:13:37 AM , Rating: 3
Thanks guys. That solves that mystery.


RE: Durr durr
By clementlim on 6/21/06, Rating: -1
RE: Durr durr
By shadowzz on 6/21/2006 11:14:38 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
The best so far, IMHO, was the "support dual-display support" report for Windows Vista Premium requirements.


Hate to burst your bubble, but that was verbatim from Vista's requirements. I am guessing you didn't read the requirements either? Support dual-display != Support dual-display support, by the way. If a system supports dual-displays, it has dual outputs. If the system supports dual-display support, it has the option to upgrade to dual displays.

But yeah let's all bash dailytech anyway even for the stuff they don't get wrong.


RE: Durr durr
By mpeny on 6/21/2006 11:49:22 AM , Rating: 1
[quote]Hate to burst your bubble, but that was verbatim from Vista's requirements[/quote]

Which is moot. Any source of news must correct it or at least indicate the mistake (ie [sic]) to their readers.


RE: Durr durr
By clementlim on 6/21/2006 11:56:33 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah...Give me a T...give me a Y...give me a P...and O!!! T-Y-P-O!!! They should rename DT to DailyTYPO...Don't get mad DT, we here are just having a lil fun =D I must admit, even with all those mistakes, I still frequent here and Toms'.


RE: Durr durr
By shadowzz on 6/21/2006 12:31:36 PM , Rating: 1
dude, I just told you it wasn't a typo. Did you even read past the first sentence i wrote?


RE: Durr durr
By mpeny on 6/21/06, Rating: 0
RE: Durr durr
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/21/2006 2:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
Uh let me just chime in here real quick.

The "supported supported" thing was not a typo, both Microsoft and DailyTech wrote what we intended.


RE: Durr durr
By Wwhat on 6/21/2006 1:46:10 PM , Rating: 1
But SLI cards can't do dual display, so SLI is not vista-compatible


RE: Durr durr
By saratoga on 6/21/2006 2:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
Dual display is not required for Vista compatability.


RE: Durr durr
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/21/2006 2:54:18 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Dual display is not required for Vista compatability.
quote:

Correct. Only the support for dual-display compatibility is required for the Vista logo for system builders.


RE: Durr durr
By CFish on 6/21/2006 5:18:29 PM , Rating: 2
Dual cards that are capable of SLI can run dual monitors; just not while running in SLI mode. So the cards can have both SLI & Vista Super Dooper stickers on them. I think ATI crossfire cards can state the same...


RE: Durr durr
By Googer on 6/22/2006 3:00:31 AM , Rating: 2
What we need is a forum/calculated physics association, some standards or protocol, and some good competition in the emerging dedicated hardware accelaration market.

Microsofts Direct Physics might be the solution to the first and/or second need, but who is going to challange Agaia in the non-graphics card based specialized co-processor physics accelaration?

I think this is a great opportunity for AMD to step in and take advantage of Athlon's Hypertransport capability. Start selling/making dual AM2 motherboards, special CPU's with added HTT lanes, and AMD branded Physics processors to fill the second AM2 socket.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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