One of the most interesting developments at the 2005 E3 show was not a killer game, but something that may help run next years killer game. All the big game developers and even the hardware manufactures are talking about the Physics Processing Unit (PPU). In case you havenít kept up with the latest and greatest computer hardware, Iím going to explore what a PPU is. Then I'll see if it is worth saving your pennies now, or just pass on it.
What is a PPU?
The first question is: what is a Physics Processing Unit (PPU), and why would I need one? To better understand what a PPU is, and why someone would need it, you first need to take a trip back in my convenient computer time-machine.
Back in the early 90ís the computer industry saw the introduction of a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). This took the graphics loads of games off the processor, meaning that the processor could now focus on stuff like AI and physics. Thanks to that advancement, the graphics in games have become stunning. We now have games like Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and Far Cry. The graphics of these games are amazing, and but without dedicated graphics cards these games could never have been made.
The PPU will do the same thing that the GPU did for games, but instead of adding graphical processing power it will crunch physics code. It will remove the load that calculating physics puts of the processor and allocate it on the PPU. What does this mean for you and me? Hopefully, it will help real-time game physics to become hyper realistic.
The PPU wonít be just a physics processor. What's inside the PPU core is still unknown, but there is a good chance it has a great float-point compared to integer.
I played a lot of Half-Life 2. My favorite gun was the physics gun. You could pick nearly anything off the ground and fire it. The boxes were quite interesting, as they would break upon impact. After it was broken you could even pick up the broken pieces and fire those too. Now imagine being able to pick up anything in any level and fire it with even more incredible physics, even destructible environments. The only thing holding games back is the complex physics calculations needed.
Imagine how much physics algorithms would be needed for a building to collapse depending on where and what kind of bomb was placed in the building. With the new PPU, these dreams may become a reality and bring a whole new type of gaming.
The first PPU will come from Ageia, called the PhysX.
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