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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