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Asus to ship Ageia PhysX add-in boards

First CPU, then GPU, now PPU

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Asus will begin shipping a dedicated physics processing board based on Ageia's PhysX PPU in May, the company said today. The card contains 256MB of memory dedicated to environment calculations designed to make virtual worlds feel more real to game players.

Ageia announced PhysX last week. It claims that 60 developers - including UbiSoft, Cryptic Studios, NCSoft, Epic Games and Sega - are working on 100 games with support for the company's physics calculation API.

asus ageia physx board

PhysX can not only take the burden of calculating physical effects off the main processor, but can dedicate more compute power to the task than the CPU can, Ageia said. The upshot will be worlds that work in more realistic ways: explosions can generate dust and debris; cloth can hang, tear and move when touched the way it does in the real world; smoke and fog can be wafted away as objects move through it; trees and litter can be blown by the wind; and objects can be damaged in a variety of random ways, to different extents.

Of course, there's competition. Both Nvidia and ATI recently touted ways their GPUs can be harnessed to handle such physics calculations, particularly when they're operating co-operatively in SLI/Crossfire mode. As they evolve their respective GPU families, both companies are going to be able to devote more processing cycles to non-graphical tasks.

The question is, will games developers support and gamers buy Ageia's single-purpose boards, or will they prefer to devote resources and cash to graphics cards they're going to have to buy anyway? ®

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