As startup company AGEIA ramps up its PPU, or physics processing unit, ATI revealed yesterday that its graphics processing units are already capable of processing physics, and that it was only a matter of time before it enabled this ability in its commercially available products.
Senior ATI architect Raja Kodouri said that the company's graphics processors are capable of processing arrays of vertexes, which is similar to tasks that PPUs can perform. The data would then be processed by using pixel shader processors on the chip.
While current graphics cards from ATI only contain 16 pixel pipelines, including the recently unveiled X1800 XL and XT, future GPUs will undoubtedly have more power. For example, the Xbox 360 graphics unit that ATI developed for Microsoft has an astounding 48 arithmetic logic units, or ALUs. With this processing power available, a GPU capable of physics calculations would be much more cost effective than a standalone PPU.
Like AGEIA, Kodouri did not give any performance figures or benefits. If ATI does in fact implement this technology it would be a fair guess to say that NVIDIA would not be far behind. This would make AGEIA's market entry more difficult, even with backing from graphics companies such as BFG Tech.
News source: X-bit labs