AMD to demo GPU physics at GDC next week

Written by Ben Hardwidge

March 20, 2009 // 9:56 a.m.

Tags: #accelerated #amd #api #ati #demo #gaming #gdc #gpu #harrell #havok #makedon #patti #physics #physx #terry

AMD might have publicly declared its support for Havok’s gaming physics technology, but the company has been curiously quiet about GPU-accelerated physics since Intel bought Havok in 2007. Since then, AMD has revealed that it’s still working with Havok, but has only really talked about running Havok on AMD’s x86 CPUs. However, AMD has now revealed that it plans to demonstrate its own GPU-accelerated physics technology at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) next week.

AMD’s Catalyst product manager, Terry Makedon, revealed on his Twitter feed that AMD would reveal its “ATI GPU Physics strategy,” and added that there may also be “a demo being thrown down next week at GDC.” Makedon also said that "Havok is indeed our partner of choice," when asked about the talk. The 60-minute talk, called “Having Your Cake and Eating it Too: Increasing Game Realism, Scale and Reach” will take place at GDC on 26 March.

The summary for the session says that AMD will discuss “the latest on game computing featuring open, standards-based physics with OpenCL and ATI Stream.” AMD’s stream computing director, Patti Harrell, explained to us a while ago that “the beauty of Havok is that ultimately we would expect it to sit on top of these industry standard APIs as they become available. So we’re working with them, and in fact there’s a team in our consumer group who works very closely with them on a daily basis.”

AMD found itself in a difficult situation after Intel bought Havok and Nvidia bought Ageia, and the company claimed that talks about GPU acceleration using the Havok FX API effectively broke down after Intel bought Havok. Since then, the focus for AMD has been CPU support for the physics API. At the time, Havok’s managing director, David O’Meara, explained the priority for CPUs, saying that “the feedback that we consistently receive from leading game developers is that core game play simulation should be performed on CPU cores.”

However, he added that GPU physics acceleration could become a feature in the future, saying that “the capabilities of massively parallel products offer technical possibilities for computing certain types of simulation. We look forward to working with AMD to explore these possibilities.”

Is GPU-accelerated physics going to play a major part in the future of PC gaming, and should AMD be working on accelerating Havok with Stream and OpenCL rather than using Nvidia’s PhysX API? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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