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The physics-intensive Cell Factor: Revolution demo will soon be "No PhysX Card Required"
NVIDIA's purchase of AGEIA leads to a PhysX-on-CUDA port

With the announcement earlier this month of NVIDIA's acquisition of AGEIA, rumours began to fly immediately surrounding the future of dedicated physics hardware -- and it now appears that the PhysX name will live on as a checkbox beside the capabilities of some current and most future NVIDIA GPUs.

During NVIDIA's fourth-quarter financial results conference call, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang responded to several questions about the plans for technology obtained in the AGEIA purchase, revealing that the plan is to port the AGEIA PhysX engine to NVIDIA's CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) C-like programming language.

"We're working toward the physics-engine-to-CUDA port as we speak. And we intend to throw a lot of resources at it." said Huang. "[PhysX on CUDA] is just going to be a software download. Every single GPU that is CUDA-enabled will be able to run the physics engine when it comes."

NVIDIA's choice to run a physics engine on a GPU runs in stark contrast to AMD's assertion in late 2007 that "GPU based physics is dead until DirectX 11." Every NVIDIA 8-series GPU is currently capable of running CUDA applications, and future GPUs will no doubt retain this feature.

The idea of using SLI for more than graphics has been brought up by NVIDIA in the past, so it was no surprise to hear Huang endorsing its further use again. "It might - and probably will - encourage people to buy a second GPU for their SLI slot. And for the highest-end gamer, it will encourage them to buy three GPUs." No mention was made of the use of the upcoming "Hybrid SLI" technology showcased at CES 2008, but an onboard GPU supporting CUDA could theoretically be used as a physics processor while discrete GPUs handle the rendering.

No timeframe for the release of the PhysX-on-CUDA software was specified, but with the PhysX engine to be available to a larger audience, it will no doubt encourage the development of more accelerated physics engines in upcoming titles.

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Needs an standard API
By phatboye on 2/15/2008 10:44:06 AM , Rating: 5
I'd rather wait till there is a standard API like an "OpenPL" or dx11 before jumping on the Physics PPU bandwagon. I don't want to be stuck using one vendors products.

RE: Needs an standard API
By ochentay4 on 2/15/2008 11:19:32 AM , Rating: 3
I totally agree with you. If physics is "the new thing", better be a standard API. It will kill competition, and probably make products expensive. Competition is always good, specially for consumers.

RE: Needs an standard API
By bighairycamel on 2/15/2008 11:27:43 AM , Rating: 3

...Huang endorsing its further use again. "It might - and probably will - encourage people to buy a second GPU for their SLI slot. And for the highest-end gamer, it will encourage them to buy three GPUs."

For now I think the only people who would potentially go for this are the same people who go for the "gaming" NIC or a 1000W PSU... all just overkill.

RE: Needs an standard API
By dsumanik on 2/15/2008 11:30:05 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed except for one thing,

You are not jumping on a single vendor's bandwagon and getting a standalone ppu here that may or may not become a dust are getting the option to run pure all out SLI framerates or trading some of the number crunching on the second GPU to do the physicas calculations.

This costs you as a consumer nothing, unless you want it too and at worst end up with SLI..


RE: Needs an standard API
By oldman42 on 2/15/2008 11:34:03 AM , Rating: 2
Good point... Plus, in 4-5 years when games start showing up using DX11, your actions right now will have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

RE: Needs an standard API
By Mitch101 on 2/15/2008 1:08:16 PM , Rating: 3
Actually AGEIA had a number of in game enhancements and some add on levels so this already has a game base or instant effect on some of todays games. The difference though is you could have gotten these enhancements with a $99.00 Ageia card instead of purchasing a second 8800gt for $205.00.

The ones to benefit would be those who have SLI rigs already but dont need SLI for a paticular game and can have one card render the graphics while the second one adds the physics eye candy.

Pretty smart NVIDIA. Now if we look at Intel's purchase of Physics software we find that NVIDIA made the smarter move. One with an existing game base that can be seen immediately rendering the Intel purchase a poor one. Which in the end will just make Intel more mad with NVIDIA. Expect more rife between these two.

RE: Needs an standard API
By GreggSauce on 2/16/2008 3:45:08 PM , Rating: 2
I never comment but I had to after this, I figured AGEIA going to die considering their card was way too expensive for the what? Like 3 games that had its physics on it, then the framerates got lower so it really didn't do all that much.

Havok on the other hand is used in over a hundred games and is even used in movies as well as applications....

AGEIA was a bargain bin buy, NVIDIA has a lot of cashm but which one was smarter again?

RE: Needs an standard API
By Jedi2155 on 2/17/2008 6:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
Plus didn't the PhysX card launch at $299...that really hurt the player base by launching at such a high price and with only 3 or so titles at the time that had physx support.

RE: Needs an standard API
By omnicronx on 2/15/2008 1:34:32 PM , Rating: 1
You are not jumping on a single vendor's bandwagon and getting a standalone ppu here that may or may not become a dust collector...
It could be... the PC gaming industry is falling out of the spotlight, not only that but there are currently only a handful of games that currently use physics, just because developers do not want to code for something that not nearly everyone has. As the majority of users still have a video card lower than GF8, we may not see these features implemented for a few years, and by that time who knows, we could see hardware based physics embedded in the videocard itself.

RE: Needs an standard API
By PrinceGaz on 2/17/2008 12:10:57 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. The PC gamer market with a GeForce 8 class card is so tiny that no-one would develop for it alone. Therefore all games will support AMD cards as well as older nVidia cards at the very least. They might add extra pretty effects for GeForce 8 owners, though there is always going to be the balance between how many of our shaders are used for physics, and how many for graphics-- I've only got one 8800GTS (G80) and don't intend to buy another card for a long time, so I don't want more than about 24 of my 96 shaders diverted to doing physics.

I'd be happy for some of my card's power being used for physics, provided I remain in control of how much is allocated to do so (ideally dynamically via a physics-quality setting which maintains framerates by discarding physics calculations and returning null results to allow the shaders to be used for graphics work when needed).

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