Physics acceleration: hot or not?

Physics is becoming the new buzzword when it comes to hyped-up hardware. Ageia's PhysX processor has been touted as an important step forward -- the add-in card, which is already available in Alienware's machines, goes on sale this month, though it will be some time before the games which support it are released.

However, Ageia hasn't sewn up the market. NVidia is also getting on the bandwagon by supporting Havok (as announced at GDC). Ageia claim that their card can generate more objects than a high-end graphics rig can cope with, so it will be interesting to see how a dedicated graphics card handles the task of physics too.

Microsoft is jumping in the fray as well -- not much is known about DirectPhysics, but if history repeats itself then a firm hand from Microsoft could do the hyperbolic world of physics accelerators a world of good. Ultimately, physics acceleration has a lot of potential, but the cost of an additional card is off-putting; as more emerges about the alternatives to PhysX, it'll be easier to make an informed decision.