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BFG AGEIA PhysX Accelerator
The physics battle heats up

FPS Labs is reporting that NVIDIA will soon announce its intention to acquire AGEIA. FPS Labs' Stu Grubbs has no financial terms for the deal, but notes that his confidential source expects the deal to become official sometime this week.

AMD batted around the idea of purchasing AGEIA in November 2007, but considering that the company is still recovering from its ATI acquisition, that idea was put to rest rather quickly. It should be interesting to see how AMD will respond to the news if the announcement comes this week -- especially considering that AMD has already declared GPU-based physics dead.

A successful acquisition of AGEIA would give NVIDIA the firepower to go up against Intel which purchased physics software developer Havok in September.

The last time that DailyTech covered AGEIA, its PhysX 100M mobile physics processor was sharing chassis space with dual GeForce 8700M GT graphics cards in Dell's $2,700 XPS M1730 World of Warcraft Edition notebook.

If NVIDIA has its way, NVIDIA GPUs and chipsets may have an even closer synergy with AGEIA hardware in the future.

Updated 2/4/2008
Just moments after this story went live, NVIDIA sent us the official PR announcing its acquisition of AGEIA (further details will come forth on Wednesday):
NVIDIA, the world leader in visual computing technologies and the inventor of the GPU, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire AGEIA Technologies, Inc., the industry leader in gaming physics technology. AGEIA's PhysX software is widely adopted with more than 140 PhysX-based games shipping or in development on Sony Playstation3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and Gaming PCs. AGEIA physics software is pervasive with over 10,000 registered and active users of the PhysX SDK.

“The AGEIA team is world class, and is passionate about the same thing we are—creating the most amazing and captivating game experiences,” stated Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of NVIDIA. “By combining the teams that created the world’s most pervasive GPU and physics engine brands, we can now bring GeForce®-accelerated PhysX to hundreds of millions of gamers around the world.”

“NVIDIA is the perfect fit for us. They have the world’s best parallel computing technology and are the thought leaders in GPUs and gaming. We are united by a common culture based on a passion for innovating and driving the consumer experience,” said Manju Hegde, co-founder and CEO of AGEIA.

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The gaming triangle...
By Micronite on 2/4/2008 6:03:53 PM , Rating: 1
1) High-end graphics processing
2) Discrete physics processing

1) High-end graphics processing
2) x86 General-purpose processing

1) Graphics processing (at least working on high-end)
2) x86 General-purpose processing
3) Physics processing (Havok)

It looks to me like there are two companies missing out on a complete current-generation gaming platform. The third company just needs to get their high-end graphics platform rolling.
Just thought that was interesting. It almost seems like NVidia went after Ageia/PhysX because of Intel's deal with Havok.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By imperator3733 on 2/4/2008 6:21:11 PM , Rating: 2
This is like an idea that I've had for a while. Since AMD makes CPUs, GPUs, and chipsets, and Intel makes CPUs, chipsets, physics stuff, and (soon) decent performance GPUs, Nvidia should buy some company with an x86 license so that they will have everything. I'm thinking they should get Transmeta, since they have a license (right?) and they don't seem to be doing much (hence it should be relatively cheap). It may take a few years then for Nvidia to make a decent CPU, but once they do, there will be three companies each with all the needed components.

If that were to happen, there would be some better competition, since if one of them screws up (like AMD right now), there are still two companies competing.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By Mitch101 on 2/4/2008 7:47:03 PM , Rating: 2
I would prefer they purchase VIA. I believe the C3 CPU's from VIA are a better product than transmeta's and they recently broke the 2ghz barrier. Gives them something decent to work with from the start. VIA's might even have a patent list that can keep Intel from killing off NVIDIA so easily. Might be cool to see a double processor speed IPC module embedded in a CPU if thats possible.

One thing for certain we can look foward to is better drivers for Ageia products. I trust NVIDIA's driver developers are more proficient than AGEIA's.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By dvinnen on 2/4/2008 9:24:41 PM , Rating: 2
Nvidia has a market cap of 14.4 billion while VIA has a market cap of 21.4 billion. Don't see that buyout happening.

The only companies with a x86 license still developing is Intel, AMD, and VIA. Other then that the only people who had one and stop developing (and haven't been bought out or excessively large) are Transmetta, SIS, and UMC. Agian, no telling who has a active license.

On a side note, according to wikipidia, nvidia already has license for embedded devices acquired from ALi.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By poohbear on 2/4/2008 9:39:56 PM , Rating: 2
why buy via? they bought Uli back in the day & they were gifted chipset makers.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By Hakuryu on 2/4/2008 6:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
I dont think they went after Ageia because of what Intel has done, but because realstic physics in games is arguably the next big step in gaming.

Graphics have been getting better and better over the years, but otherwise there hasn't been anything 'big' that happened to gaming hardware wise. We expect better graphics, more precise mice, keyboards with all kinds of gadgets, but we haven't been delighted by something unexpected like the control scheme of Wii did to the console market.

I've played some games with very good physics, but they lack the feeling of being in a true physical enviroment. You can readily identify what will use physics after a few minutes of playing - those barrels, chairs, etc; but that post in the center of the room is solid even if you detonate a nuclear blast on it. Perhaps with hardware physics processing, we could be playing fully destructible enviroments with realistic physics.

If NVidia can merge a seperate physics processing unit onto their video cards, without making them extremely expensive, then I bet they will be on top for a long time to come after the 8800's become old. AMD/ATI watch out.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By Assimilator87 on 2/4/2008 7:15:55 PM , Rating: 1
I hope they don't integrate a PPU into GPUs. nVidia would have to cripple both products in order to have them both in the same space. I want the different processors to stay on separate cards so they can be pushed much further technologically. If you're so adamantly against separate processors, ditch computers and buy a console or one of those VIA all in one boards.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By Targon on 2/5/2008 8:09:05 AM , Rating: 2
The issue that many people have with physics at the moment is that it doesn't improve the overall game experience, which is what people want. More details at 5 frames per second due to the extra polygons the dedicated physics processors have been delivering really doesn't improve the experience.

Back in the day when the original Tomb Raider came out with 3D support, there were TWO advantages to the 3Dfx Voodoo. The first is obviously the improved graphics, but the second was improved game speeds. Improved graphics alone would have been fine if the framerates were the same, or getting the improved speeds alone would have helped, but would not have drawn in crowds.

So, PPUs....better graphics, but no other advantages, and many disadvantages. NVIDIA may be looking to take care of those disadvantages with the purchase, but it may take them years to get to the point where the physics processing becomes an advantage.

If physics becomes a demanded feature, it will probably be added to DirectX as a part of the API, in which case following the API will be very important. Even then, unless physics is good for more than just eye candy in games, it also becomes a "who cares" feature. If physics gets used for things like being able to have an explosion open up holes in a wall or floor realistically, and that makes tactics/trying to make the explosion happen in a certain location, that is another story(and this could be emulated very easily without the need for physics as well).

So, what will physics processing REALLY do for us that we don't get already? If a PPU were used to improve framerates at VERY VERY VERY high resolutions, that would be very useful. Or perhaps NVIDIA is looking forward to when holographic technologies may mean that physics processing will be a big factor in making the display work? It is anyone's guess at this point.

RE: The gaming triangle...
By Darkskypoet on 2/4/2008 7:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say both nvidia, and amd have massively parallel GPGPU processing capabilities available. Via tesla, and amd's older but less trumpeted streaming GPGPU useage. And both of these can be (and have been)leveraged for graphics or physics. Nvidia bought Ageia for the developer tie ins, and pre-exisiting support for the API; honestly nvidia, intel, and, amd could all do realistic physics. The question is whose API will be used?

Much the same as battling for game developers, this can be clearly seen when viewing GPU benchmarks; much more comes down to whose code path you're utilizing, then it does to whose hardware is marginally theoretically superior. In other words, if a GPU/CPU/PPU has a feature set that accelerates performance, but nobody uses it, does it matter to anyone but a fanperson? (see results in 3dmark06 vs certain game titles, or game titles A vs game title B)

Would we be better served as gamers to simply have a standard for such physics processing (industry wide), and then allow the various companies involved to attack it by making hardware to deliver best performance of such? I for one don't want to stifle competition, or innovation; however I'd rather have the beautiful physics in gaming work on any of the video cards I choose to purchase, and not simply on the one that wins, (but refuses to license said technology).

Perhaps that will never happen, and we'll be forced to hope and pray the next great game supports the physics processing utilized in our video card, and not another one.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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