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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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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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