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AGEIA PhysX Physics Processor Technology Preview

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AGEIA

Introduction and Definitions

It seems like all I am ever writing about or talking about anymore is physics.  Ever since the first AGEIA preview article we did way back in early 2005, any time I was working with ATI or NVIDIA or even a game developer, the topic always seemed to include something about AGEIA's PhysX processor and the technology behind it.  Just two days ago NVIDIA announced a partnership with Havok and their upcoming Havok FX engine with NVIDIA GPU acceleration.  At first I thought we were going to have a physics battle on our hands but it looks more and more like the two products are very different beasts.

Be sure to read my initial look on physics processing technology as it as good starting point for figuring out why we even want physics processors in our systems to begin with.

As AGEIA's launch is finally here, and with titles like Bet on Soldier, City of Villains and Ghost Recon officially supporting the hardware and out (or nearly out) we tried to delve a little deeper into the technology in this article.

Defining Gaming Physics

The first issue that was brought up by AGEIA during my meetings today was actually defining what gaming physics is.  Is it just a cloud of smoke that uses many more particles or is it a bomb you can place on a tank that will destroy it in a different way each time?  It turns out that it is much more than that. 

AGEIA views the world of advanced gaming physics as having four distinct parts that all must be addressed by either a hardware or software solution, or both.  The first one is fidelity, that accurately and faithfully represents the real world is as much detail as possible.  The second feature is scale that simple means the solution must support a large number of physical objects at the same time.  If you want an entirely destructible world then the number of objects to track rises exponentially.  Interaction is another key component where every object is able to react and act upon every other object that exists in this high fidelity world on a physics processing system.  Finally, sophistication is required to simulate a wide array of real-world effects that are done mathematically rather than through hand created animations. 

The key to these four points though is having a solution that can address them all simultaneously without sacrificing the quality of any one component.  CPUs and GPUs might be good at one or two of them, but AGEIA stands firm that only their solution will really bring the changes to the gaming realm that users are going to expect.

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