AMD demonstrates Havok with GPU acceleration

Written by Ben Hardwidge

March 27, 2009 // 11:25 a.m.

Tags: #accelerated #amd #apex #ati #gpu #hardware #havok #nvidia #opencl #physics #physx #saber #stream

Just as we expected, AMD has just demonstrated GPU-accelerated physics at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. According to AMD, the session included a demonstration of Havok Cloth accelerated on AMD GPUs via OpenCL.

Commenting on AMD’s demonstration of GPU-accelerated Havok physics, Havok’s vice president, David Coghlan, said that “Havok is committed to delivering highly optimised cross-platform solutions to our game customers and we are pleased to be working with AMD to ensure that gamers enjoy a great user experience when running Havok-powered games on AMD platforms”

Coghlan also added that “unlocking the parallel processing capability of AMD’s hardware provides real advantages to our customers, and the greater the total computing resources available, the better the gaming experience developers can deliver.”

The technology has also been endorsed by Saber Interactive, developer of TimeShift and the Saber 3D engine. Saber’s chief operating officer, Andrey Iones, said that "Havok’s awesome toolset has allowed us to deliver astonishing physics interactions in our games, including detailed real-time destruction and complex ragdoll models, and we are excited about using ATI Stream technology to pursue more astounding in-game accomplishments.”

The announcement coincided with Havok’s revelation that Havok Cloth is, in fact, the fastest-selling Havok product ever. Originally released in March 2008, the Havok Cloth SDK allows developers to create realistic material effects, including clothing and environmental cloth such as rugs or flags, while also taking advantage of multi-threading across a variety of CPUs. This includes the Cell processor found in the PlayStation 3, and now crucially also supports AMD’s GPUs via OpenCL.

As the technology has been demonstrated running on OpenCL, there’s theoretically no reason why Nvidia wouldn’t be able to support this on its own GPUs either. In fact, in a recent Q&A session, Nvidia's director of product management for PhysX, Nadeem Mohammad, said that "we would be thrilled to work with Havok and accelerate Havok on GeForce. I don’t see that as conflict at all with our PhysX efforts – it would be a great complement." Mohammad also pointed out Nvidia had previously worked with Havok on Havok FX, and added that "we already have OpenCL drivers, and we were the first to demonstrate GPU acceleration in OpenCL."

In the meantime, however, Nvidia is still very much pushing its own PhysX technology, and recently revealed its new APEX tools at GDC as well. Among APEX’s features is APEX Clothing which, like Havok Cloth, will enable game developers to easily create detailed cloth effects. The APEX toolset also includes tools for creating destructible objects and vegetation with realistic effects. Nvidia was also keen to point out that APEX is scalable across a variety of platforms, starting from the Wii and going through various processor technologies all the way to GPU acceleration via CUDA.

Do you consider hardware physics support to be a solid selling point for graphics cards, and would you rather that your hardware supported PhysX or Havok? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.
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