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Intel reaches definitive agreement to purchase physics software developer Havok

Intel has announced it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase software developer Havok, Inc. Havok provides various software development tools to digital animation and game developers and is one of the largest providers for software physics.

“Havok is a proven leader in physics technology for gaming and digital content, and will become a key element of Intel’s visual computing and graphics efforts,” said Renee J. James, Intel vice president and general manager of Software and Solutions Group.

“This is a great fit for Havok products, customers and employees,” remarked Havok CEO David O’Meara. “Intel’s scale of technology investment and customer reach enable Havok with opportunities to grow more quickly into new market segments with new products than we could have done organically. We believe the winning combination is Havok’s technology and customer know-how with Intel’s scale. I am excited to be part of this next phase of Havok’s growth.”

A recent trend is to offload physics processing to either a GPU or dedicated physics processor. So far, though, Ageia, ATI, and NVIDIA have not made much headway in the physics market.

Both NVIDIA and ATI have previewed CrossFire and SLI Physics, however, neither company has delivered any actual physics hardware yet. It’s pretty interesting to note that both ATI and NVIDIA’s physics solutions rely on Havok FX. However, it is unlikely that Intel’s acquisition of Havok will affect Havok’s partnership with either AMD or NVIDIA.    

“Havok will operate its business as usual, which will allow them to continue developing products that are offered across all platforms in the industry,” said Renee J. James regarding the future of Havok.

Essentially, Havok will operate as a subsidiary of Intel and will continue to operate as an independent business. This reinforces the belief that current partnerships will not be affected.

Havok has partnerships with many of the largest names in the gaming community such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, NVIDIA, and AMD. Havok has provided software physics for games like Halo 3, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Half Life 2 and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition.

In addition to providing software that adds physics realism to games, Havok also provides physics for professional software such as Autodesk’s 3DS Studio Max 9

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RE: Other Cores for Physics?
By Targon on 9/17/2007 9:34:39 AM , Rating: 2
A chip dedicated to a certain type of calculation will always be faster than a general purpose chip like a CPU. A CPU is designed with the idea that it should be able to handle all sorts of different applications, without being focused on one particular application.

Now, the reason a GPU can handle physics is in the nature of physics processing. Physics is one of those applications where you can run things in parallel, and the design of a graphics chip is based on running calculations for multiple pixels at the same time. By adjusting the calculations of the GPU, you can get physics processing rather than graphics processing done.

Now, keep in mind that a dedicated physics processor will be better at physics than a graphics processor, but at this point, physics processing is a very young technology, so there is a lot of room for improvement in implementation.

AMD is looking at this sort of thing for their future chips, where you could have a CPU with 4 CPU cores, 2 graphics cores, a physics core, and who knows what else for the 8th core. The key is what the best mix is for overall system performance for the different markets.

I personally am very curious if/when we will see a practical application of physics processing in games. I don't care about "more realistic" looking explosions if the explosions don't do things like over multiple explosions causing walls to become weak enough to break through for example, or to make it so an explosion will rip a hole in the floor allowing either access to a lower level or for a tactical approach to the game challenge, whatever it may be.

Things like smoke effects don't strike me as being a terribly useful use of physics, because current software methods can do a "good enough" job.

One other thing, if physics does not improve the performance of a game while at the same time improving the appearance, it will have very little appeal. 3Dfx did well with the original Voodoo and Voodoo 2 chips because game performance was higher while at the same time providing better video quality. It was a winning combination that we have yet to see with physics processors.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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