Author Topic: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit  (Read 6396 times)

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Offline NeonDevil

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Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« on: April 20, 2005, 10:56:01 am »
This idea has been floating around the 'net as I go from site to site...
I've even discussed it with our clan a bit, but I haven't noticed it here yet.

Check this out, AGEIA has developed the world's first Physics Processing Unit (PPU), called the PhysX Chip.

Here's a quote from their White Paper:
Quote
The same was once true for 3D graphics. In the early nineties, few games used 3D graphics because software 3D rendering slowed the game unacceptably. Then 3D graphics accelerators became popular in the mid 1990s, which offloaded 3D rendering from the CPU. Soon thereafter, 3D capable graphics processors (GPUs) became standard on even entry-level computers, and 3D graphics and high-resolution textures became standard elements of virtually all games.

A parallel dynamic exists today relating to physics. Computer and console CPUs are responsible for all non-graphics-related game play tasks like game logic, scoring and artificial intelligence, as well as physics. In fact, its estimated that during game play, only about one-sixth of a fully utilized CPU is typically dedicated to physics, and actual experience shows that this is clearly insufficient


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Offline Gaming Steve

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2005, 07:02:27 pm »
I actually read about this several months ago. It is a very good topic as this will be a big deal in the future and change gaming as much as the 3D graphics chip did. I'll probably talk about this in episode 10 as I have the next show all set right now...
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Offline UndeadScottsman

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2005, 03:03:40 am »
I always figured this would happen, but with AI instead of physics. It seemed to me that if there was any kind of program that would benefit greatly from an alternative processing unit, it would be AI, but I guess we're still a ways off for that.

Offline syphonbyte

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2005, 09:56:09 am »
I didn't really expect a physics processing unit; I didn't think it was so integral in today's games that it needed its own chip. I guess this is sort of like an extra math coprocessor.

Offline NeonDevil

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2005, 01:05:21 pm »
I can't quote the following source verbatim, but the latest MaximumPC (May 2005) had a small article on it. Most notably, that AGEIA has been working with "the top 10 A-list game developer titles" to include support for the physX chip, including the upcoming Unreal title.
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Offline s0lidmetal

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2005, 10:43:27 am »
It makes sense that physics will begin to rapidly become important in the next generation of games, since I don't see how it's possible to improve/upgrade the graphics of today's games...

Offline Tr0n

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2005, 10:56:38 am »
Physics engines are in their infancy right now.  They're being held back by unoptimized processors.  The Havok engine right now does a good job, but it still uses simple physics and it's heavy on a processor.  Imagine that every object has it's own "physics shader" kinda like pixels do now.  A metal can is assigned a mass and other properties and the PPU takes care of the rest.  That metal can is able to do any number of things, all of which are dependent upong about a thousand or so other factors in the game world, the player being the least of it's worries.  Soon, they'll be able to make individual pieces of walls go flying (ala The Matrix) without even batting an eyelash.  Smoke will be rendered not as a particle effect, but it will be affected by bullets flying through it, it will wisp around people and be affected by heat.  Things can melt realistically.  3d footprints can be left in dirt depending on how fast and what shoe someone is wearing.  The possibilities are endless.  If anyone remembers the lobby shootout in The Matrix, and it's 3dMark demo that was made... just imagine that times a couple thousand.  Physics is based upon an action-reaction model.  Thus, the more things having forces applied to them, the more reaction and potential further reaction from that.  Right now, physics engine have to think one step at a time and limit the number of things flying around or smashing into one another.  I'd LOVE to see a PPU in action in a game... it would make the physics engine in HalfLife2 look like the origina Doom ("Look!  I can jump!")
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Offline s0lidmetal

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2005, 11:05:45 am »
Yeah, if you saw the GDCTV episode with Peter Molyneux, he showcased his new game B&W2 which had an emphasis on its physics engine.

Offline NeonDevil

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 02:44:19 pm »
I'm sure the biggest benefit is some sort of advanced collision detection and handling. The way game object will interact with each other, as Tr0n suggested.

I'm sure destructable objects (putting a dent on a car in a racing game, for example) will react more realistly as well with less strain on the main processing chip with a PPU.

I'd also like to see some advanced modeling techniques and it's reactions in the game environment. For instance, instead of defining a bunch of instances of a crushed sodacan, you would take a 'perfect' sodacan and record 'crushing actions' against it. There would be less strain on the person doing the modeling and the  PPU would do the gruntwork.
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Offline syphonbyte

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2005, 06:35:42 pm »
I don't see what the big problem which collision detection is. Doesn't anybody know math? It's not that hard to check if one area intersects another area... although it is CPU intensive. And now we've got the PPU. Ah, it all works out.

Offline s0lidmetal

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2005, 05:42:24 am »
OK I learned something interesting about collision detection when I wrote Pong in Java.  I know game programming is much more highly advanced than applets but the theory may still be the same.  Say there is a 3D cube that's 10x10 pixels going 20pixels/second.  It is heading towards a 10 pixel wide wall. It SHOULD crash into the wall but instead it goes right through it because it only checks if it has collided with something every 20 pixels.

Offline syphonbyte

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2005, 08:59:42 am »
Yes, but you can write a check that maps the distance between the two points and checks that against the wall. You could do it with a for loop based on the ball's velocity, that way the faster the ball, the more steps the for loop would go through and it would accurately check the ball's collision each time.

Offline s0lidmetal

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2005, 11:56:46 am »
Even so it would look like it went inside the wall and then it would 'pop' out.  Plus it gets harder for wierd shapes.

Offline syphonbyte

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2005, 12:13:35 pm »
You could just have it decide where the ball would go and render that instead of rendering the ball behind the wall.

Of course it would get hard, yes, but my point was that you could do it.

Offline NeonDevil

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Re: Podcast Topic Suggestion: Physics Processing Unit
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2005, 09:10:11 pm »
Anyone have their take on the rumor that one of these 'next generation consoles' (I think I may have heard XBOX360) may include a PPU?

It was discussed briefly on "Attack of the Show" on G4-TechTV.

It sounds doubtfull, as the developers are trying to bring down the cost of the units as much as they can so it's more friendly to the wallets. Perhaps an add-on?
ConfQuest? Nah, I'd rather do Amtgard instead.