Feeds

Ageia PhysX physics accelerator chip

Very special effects?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Review Accelerating game physics is a hot topic for gamers. The concept of using add-on hardware - be it GPU or even a new kind of dedicated physics processing unit (PPU) - to speed up physics calculations that would otherwise have to run on the CPU is back at the forefront of developers' discussions...

The idea isn't new - games middleware and individual developers have already been making CPU-hosted physics calculations go faster by multi-threading their game engines and letting game physics run alongside other parts of the engine. Multi-core CPUs will really help this technique.

Havok, a physics middleware developer, recently announced Havok FX, which performs game physics calculations on a Shader Model 3.0 graphics processor. As far as PPU acceleration goes, there is currently only one vendor out there. Ageia, a Californian start-up fresh from a round of venture capital and new employee hires, not only has a PPU design in production but it's selling the product too.

Ageia PhysX chip

Recently shipping in high-end systems from a range of mostly boutique vendor systems, Ageia's PhysX PPU even has support in a few games. Worth a peek, then?

I've recently spent time with a board and a couple of supported games, and there's some data worth sharing with you. First, let's look at the PhysX PPU itself and see what it's capable of. Ageia's silicon is made by TSMC in Taiwan, on a 130nm process. Measuring 14 x 13.5mm and comprising around 125m transistors, the chip appears to be clocked in the range 250-266MHz or 500-533MHz.

PhysX is ahead of Havok FX in what it can accelerate. The PhysX PPU is able to process more than just large-scale collision or 'effects' physics via its API. There's support for limited fluid dynamics simulations, vehicles (wheel, torque and tire simulation), object raycasting and more, which the PPU can fully or partly accelerate, with Ageia moving more onto the hardware as time goes by.

At its core the chips is just a wide parallel-stream processor with a command core - sometimes called the control engine - to run it all and a memory controller to move data onto and off of the chip during processing.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
YES, iPhones ARE getting slower with each new release of iOS
Old hardware doesn't get any faster with new software
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.