New Physics Chip May Add New Realism to Game Graphics

Compared to those of even five years ago, the look of video games is more realistic than ever. New and more powerful processors and more sophisticated game engines have upped the ante for graphics tremendously – but objects still don’t necessarily behave as they would in the “real world.” Today’s gamers want glass that shatters, explosions that really go “boom,” and objects that slide around when kicked.

Ageia Technologies, Inc., a new Silicon valley start-up, aims to give them what they want.

Their new PhysX Processor reportedly will simulate everything from smoke and dust storms to stones and ice. Manju Hegnde, Ageia’s chief executive, believe that physics and interactivity on the screen to match the graphics. “Physics makes games feel real the way graphics makes games look real,” he says.

There are some problems: Ageia already faces competition from chip-makers who are integrating physics into their existing processors. And at $300, gamers may be reluctant to invest in untried technology.

The biggest problem, however, is that today’s computers simply may not have the graphic horsepower to keep up. In a recent demonstration, virtual combatants in the upcoming Cell Factor were able to move, shatter and splinter everything on the screen. However, Hegnde was forced to lower the game resolution in order for it to work.

Hegnde is gambling that gamers will be willing to trade more realistic graphics for more realistic physics.

According to Ageia’s website, titles that have been optimized to take advantage of the PhysX include Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends and City of Villains; future MMORPG’s that will be similarly optimized are Unreal Tournament 2007, Arena Online, Warhammer, and Vangaurd: Saga of Heroes, among others. Some real-time demo videos can be viewed here.

Compared to those of even five years ago, the look of video games is more realistic than ever. New and more powerful processors and more sophisticated game engines have upped the ante for graphics tremendously – but objects still don’t necessarily behave as they would in the “real world.” Today’s gamers want glass that shatters, explosions that really go “boom,” and objects that slide around when kicked.

Ageia Technologies, Inc., a new Silicon valley start-up, aims to give them what they want.

Their new PhysX Processor reportedly will simulate everything from smoke and dust storms to stones and ice. Manju Hegnde, Ageia’s chief executive, believe that physics and interactivity on the screen to match the graphics. “Physics makes games feel real the way graphics makes games look real,” he says.

There are some problems: Ageia already faces competition from chip-makers who are integrating physics into their existing processors. And at $300, gamers may be reluctant to invest in untried technology.

The biggest problem, however, is that today’s computers simply may not have the graphic horsepower to keep up. In a recent demonstration, virtual combatants in the upcoming Cell Factor were able to move, shatter and splinter everything on the screen. However, Hegnde was forced to lower the game resolution in order for it to work.

Hegnde is gambling that gamers will be willing to trade more realistic graphics for more realistic physics.

According to Ageia’s website, titles that have been optimized to take advantage of the PhysX include Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends and City of Villains; future MMORPG’s that will be similarly optimized are Unreal Tournament 2007, Arena Online, Warhammer, and Vangaurd: Saga of Heroes, among others. Some real-time demo videos can be viewed here.

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