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ATI's physics goes on the back burner

During ATI's 2006 third quarter financial results conference call this morning, ATI CEO Dave Orton revealed to analysts that despite demonstrating physics processing earlier this year, volume availability will not be for another "9 to 12 months." Orton indicated that the technology was still undergoing testing and preparation. Interestingly,  ATI indicated earlier that its physics technology was already on the market and needed only driver updates.

DailyTech has attempted to test some physics-enabled demos on a pair of Radeon X1900 XTX boards but drivers were not ready. Interestingly, ATI demonstrated physics on its RD600 chipset at Computex earlier this year but a year from now, ATI's RD600 will more than likely be phased out. In fact, ATI said during the call that it was already developing and testing RD700, its next generation core logic.

After ATI's announcement about its own physics solution during Computex, AGEIA responded by indicating that ATI's method was crude and did not really address the core needs of physics processing. AGEIA also indicated that its own widely accepted technology was already available on store shelves. AGEIA's availability argument was somewhat called upon by ATI customers, citing that ATI too had boards already in the market. Orton's announcement today unfortunately reaffirms AGEIA's point. Many ATI customers will have to wait a while longer.

Details on ATI's R600 core -- the replacement for its X1900 family -- is expected to be available late this year or in early 2007. It is unclear whether or not ATI's physics API will continue to support the X1900 family a year out from now.

Update 06/30/2006
:  We earlier reported that "retail availability" was not to be available for 9-12 months.  Instead, Orton's exact meaning was for "volume availability," and as such DailyTech has changed the article text. Will Willis, Senior PR manager for ATI sent us the following comment about ATI's physics solution:
Dave’s reply was that we won’t see physics in volume (i.e. hundreds of thousands of cards being used for physics) and therefore a material revenue stream from physics for 9-12 months (i.e. another 3-4 quarters) as that’s when there will be some substantial volume of ATI graphics cards being used for physics purposes.

ATI GPU’s that support physics acceleration are already in retail (i.e. the X1900 and X1600 series of cards for example).  All that’s required is a driver update that enables physics processing, and more importantly, game content which we expect around the holidays.  We’re very likely to see revenue from physics before 9-12 months, but as Dave said it won’t be in volume, it will likely be early adopters.
Willis claims content for ATI physics will be available this holiday season already.  However, there is no word yet on the driver other than it is "several weeks out."

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RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By meyerds on 6/29/2006 7:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there an article either here or on Tom's Hardware/Anandtech that stated that both ATI and nVidia were working closely with Havok for their physics implementations? So AGEIA is the only one with the truly proprietary system (made in-house). Microsoft will undoubtedly work with Havok (or who knows, maybe aquire them ;-) for their DirectX Physics implementation (which was announced a few days ago, I believe).

Personally, I question the need for dedicated PPUs (Physics Processing Units). Looking back in the industry, what has come out as a significantly successful technology tends to be good for more than just games. Most physics processing in the business/science world are done by CPUs/supercomputers made for the job. I do not anticipate this technology becoming useful/succesful in any other application than gaming. Unlike graphics accelleration/OpenGL (speaking of which, where is OpenPhysics in all of this?) which was used VERY heavily in workstation graphics processing, etc. before and after games began to take advantage of the system, PPUs started, and perhaps are going to be used exclusively in the game industry. Not a formula for success, in my opinion.

In short, I agree with your comment. Perhaps a better solution is to create a standard physics engine (DirectX Physics/OpenPhysics) that takes advantage of Multi-core CPU hardware for physics accelleration in software - similar to what Havok has already started for software-based physics. I don't think a few extra sparks and randomly-bouncing crate explosions are worth $150+.

RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By PrinceGaz on 6/30/2006 9:10:11 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was wondering where OpenPhysics is too. Though it would probably be called OpenPL, after all we've already got OpenGL (graphics) and OpenAL (audio).

RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By meyerds on 7/1/2006 12:04:25 AM , Rating: 2
You're right, of course... it is/will be called OpenPL (Open Physics Library) if that standard becomes a reality. I was simply making reference to it's Open Source nature w/o acronyms for the sake of clarity. Actually, I recall running accross an "OpenPL" project not too long ago (shortly after AGEIA was released). If I remember correctly it was an MIT project. Doing a quick Google search just now didn't reveal anything, but who knows?

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