AMD's Physics Secret Revealed: Havok


Sunnyvale (CA) - AMD had to find an answer to Nvidia’s Ageia acquisition and the conversion of the PhysX engine into CUDA. We knew that AMD’s graphics team was up to something, since the manufacturer was highlighting "game physics processing capability" in its RV770 launch materials. Now we know, since AMD just announced a partnership with Havok. In case you are wondering: Yes, that is the same company that Intel acquired last year and now is a subsidiary of the blue team.

One month ago, we were fortunate enough to come across numerous launch details of the upcoming Radeon 4850 and 4870 graphics cards and the specific note of physics processing capability got us scratching our heads. Since Ageia was snapped up by Nvidia and the PhysX API is pretty much converted into CUDA on the one side and Intel secured Havok’s physics engine last September, we were wondering what AMD (ATI) was up to. They must have been developing their own physics engine along the way, right?

Wrong. In an announcement that we have to admit caught us a bit on the wrong foot, we learned today that this physics processing capability will come from Havok. AMD’s Godfrey Cheng, director of product marketing in the company’s platform and gaming technologies division, stressed today’s news does not include a product announcement, but simply points out that there is relationship being formed between AMD and Havok and the two companies are working together to "optimize" physics processing on AMD CPUs and AMD (ATI) GPUs.

So, why Havok? Cheng reasoned that Havok’s technology and toolset have been widely accepted by developers and are considered to be "very mature". He also noted that Havok follows AMD’s open approach philosophy. The executive indicated that Nvidia’s PhysX strategy does not match AMD’s strategy and that the company does not believe in forcing people to use a particular API. While Cheng said that AMD is aligned with Havok at this time, he did not want "exclude" a possible future announcement regarding PhysX. No such announcement is currently planned, we were told.

AMD said that Havok’s physics technology "scales extremely well across the entire family of AMD processors, including quad-core products such as the AMD Phenom X4." As part of the collaboration, Havok and AMD plan to "further optimize the full range of Havok technologies on AMD x86 superscalar processors." The two companies said that they are also "investigating" the use of "AMD’s massively parallel ATI Radeon GPUs to manage appropriate aspects of physical world simulation in the future."

While we are still a bit dazzled by the fact that AMD decided to go with an Intel-owned physics engine (and we are pretty sure that some people at Intel may be a bit surprised as well), Cheng stressed that Havok remains "independent" from Intel. Also, while we do not have any confirmation for this speculation, this relationship appears to be driven by the ATI team, which anyway has been working with Intel not just pre-AMD, but also recently on graphics products for Montevina (Centrino 2) notebooks as well as Crossfire X solutions. So this relationship may not be as awkward as it first sounds after all.

Now, of course, we are interested in seeing in what products this relationship will result.

  • im looking forward to that.
  • Wheat_Thins
    So they are paying to license X86 technology as it is and now they are going to also pay Intel a penny or two every freaking time they stamp a new GPU off their line? There needs to be a common platform that is not owned by one of the major players to level the playing field.
  • sandmanwn
    AMD should be careful with Havok. Any information AMD gives to Havok about the Radeon will ultimately be used by Intel to develop their own discrete graphics system, which is just about the only area AMD still has a leg up on Intel. The X86 processor physix development doesn't matter nearly as much.
  • lopopo
    "So, why Havok?"
    Because like many other chip companies AMD have become complacent
    ,don't want to spend money on R&D oh and the other guys saw more than one foot ahead and bought the better companies before AMD.
    sandmanwn I agree 100%. How can AMD Work with Havok when, Intel their future GPU competitor and current CPU chipset competitor owns Havok?
    Wow maybe AMD should just bend over a table and get it over with.
  • hannibal
    Well the AMD was out of PhysX, because Nvidia have it. Havok was owned by Intel... Witch one should be taken?... Intel can give Havok rights at small payment at this moment, because there is not any intel GPU that really can use it. Now AMD and Nvidia will fight to the dead between each others in graphick and physic engine level and Intel can come later and kill both of them, by makin havok much, much more expensive...
    For intel this is win win situation...
    Now Nvidia is alone with PhysX technology... how much there is gonna be support for both systems? Not much I can predict. One game will support one, and other game another technology. If Havok wins Nvidia will lose... If PhysX wins AMD lose (and Havok)... If situation is bad, I can see that Intel will put money to get Havok support to the games, if it seem to be that AMD is losing, just to be sure that it has the rights of the "right" physic engine. That would help AMD to compete with Nvidia in game market.
    The marketing policity is guite strange from time to time...
  • I don't see this as really all that bad look at it this way, Intel boards were the only boards other than ATI branded boards that supported crossfire, and it has continuted to be that way. While they are certainly strage bedfellows so to speak if AMD want physics processing Havok is the way to go, if they go the R&D route and come up with an API all their own ala PhysX you have to worry about getting developers to support the tech which has always been the main problem with PhysX. WIth Havok AMD/ATI has an already established customer base to build off of. As far as intel and their upcoming discreet GPU's I think they have a long way to come before they are competetive with nVidia and ATI a winning GPU isnt going to come about over night especially considering massively parallel processors (like gpus) have never really been intels strong suit.
  • Lozil
    Intel Needs ATI for Those chipset Sales of them supporting Crossfire, Else Who will buy their Chipsets....? So they are Bringing in the ATI as they can't go and surrender To nVIDIA after so much going in between them...
    Freeware Links
  • oafed
    So will games support BOTH Havok and Phyx or do we get screwed if we can't predict which one will come out ahead and be used by the game developers?
  • mr roboto
    OafedSo will games support BOTH Havok and Phyx or do we get screwed if we can't predict which one will come out ahead and be used by the game developers?
    I imagine games will support both. Otherwise you can guarantee the DOJ will get involved and nobody wants that.