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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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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.


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