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Nvidia completes absorption of physics chip maker

Ageia brand lives on as hardware add-in

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Nvidia has now absorbed Ageia, the developer of physics processing chips it acquired earlier this year. It's busily separating Ageia's silicon from the accompanying software.

Nvidia announced its intention to buy Ageia back in February. Until then, Ageia had offered its PhysX physics chip and software to allow games developers to support the hardware in their titles.

The deal has now completed, and Ageia's long un-updated website has now vanished, replaced by Nvidia's. Gone too - almost - is the Ageia name. The firm's software technology is now called "PhysX by Nvidia".

The graphics chips maker said it "will deploy PhysX on CUDA-enabled GPUs later this year", though it won't reveal which ones just yet. Expect an announcement in the "near future".

The Ageia name now exists only as the 'Ageia PhysX Accelerator', the add-in board the company launched in March 2006, initially on a board offered by Asus - and reviewed here. Ageia later updated the PCI original to a PCI Express version.

The card was offered by a number of gaming PC suppliers, most notably Dell, but almost always as an option. Nvidia's website lists over 80 PhysX-compatible games, including variants and expansion packs.

In short, while dedicated physics processing was, just a few years ago, being touted as the gaming's Next Big Thing, it's largely failed to wow gamers - especially when both AMD/ATI and Nvidia began saying they could do all that clever physics processing on the GPU.

Ageia's main rival was Havok, which had been courted by both AMD and Nvidia up until it was acquired by Intel in September 2007. Havok's physics processing software works with GPUs rather than dedicated hardware, though it's site lists only a handful more games that support the technology than Nvidia's does.

Intel's interest in Havok is thought to centre on the work the chip giant is doing on its own graphics chip, the multi-core 'Larrabee' processor. With that in mind, it's no surprise Nvidia decided to acquire Ageia, primarily for the software, which adds a gaming emphasis to the more science-and-engineering oriented CUDA - Nvidia's own technology for using GPUs to process non-graphical algorithms.

We have to wonder how long the hardware - and the Ageia name - will remain.

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