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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: hmmm
By PrinceGaz on 2/17/2008 12:24:29 AM , Rating: 2
The last thing we need at eh moment are dedicated physics-chips. GPUs and CPUs are converging, give them time to do so and PPUs will be irrelevant.

At best PPUs introduce a proprietary new physics-language that will be utilised by at best 1% of game players (I doubt even 0.1% of current PC game players have bought a PhysX card), and therefore a small minority of games.

Over the next year or two, the PC gaming market will advance again as the console world settles into its usual cycles. There will never again be a dedicated PPU, or onboard physics-unit on a graphics-card because it is too small a market to develop for.

But in two or three years, graphics-card shaders will be so flexible that the line between them and general-purpose CPUs will be a little blurred. Your 8 or 16-core CPU will be able to handle a lot of physics, as will your parallel-processor card.


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