Product: Sapphire Radeon HD 5830
Company: Sapphire
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 10th, 2010
OpenCL - AMD @ GDC 2010 / David Hoff Interview

OpenCL - AMD @ Game Developers Conference 2010

Following March 8th's announcement of the expansion of the Open Physics Initiative ecosystem, delivered by the free Bullet Physics engine and newly integrated Pixelux Digital Molecular Matter to provide an open and affordable development environment. Read more about this announcement here.

AMD Open Physics Announcement, 2009
AMD Open Physics Announcement, 2009

The purpose of the Open Physics Initiative is to provide an alternative to nVidia's proprietary PhysX solution, currently used with rigid body and fluid simulation, some of which can be GPU accelerated to increase immersion and improve the nVidia gamer experience. The disadvantage of the nVidia PhysX solution is the proprietary nature of it - not only do you require an nVidia CUDA-capable graphics processor, you are prohibited from using an AMD card as primary renderer with nVidia card installed as a CUDA processor.

Interview with David Hoff

Dave Hoff, Director of AMD's Advanced Technology Initiatives team, spared us a few moments before heading out to Game Developers Conference 2010 to talk about the Open Physics Initiative, OpenCL, and DirectCompute:

Dave Hoff: We put out a press release this morning talking about some of the updates on our open physics initiative. As you know, we first discussed this during our Cypress launch event - when you and I met - and that was the day we signed our development agreement with Pixelux - actually signed on the USS Hornet, not just announced.

Dave Hoff: So we've been making some really good progress since that kick-off. We've spent a bunch of time with the Pixelux engineers, and Bullet Physics lead, Erwin. The Pixelux guys have made a cool breakthrough in doing the first tight integration of a Rigid Body physics system with Finite Element Modeling (The realistic behavior their get from their DMM engine). FEM of course has been used and studied for decades, particularly in aerospace, but Pixelux is unique in having this for gaming and film (most recently in Avatar).

Dave Hoff: Now they've done a very tight 2-way integration with Bullet Physics now as their default. This will allow developers to work with Rigid Body physics in the way they're most familiar and easily dab on bits of DMM as a way to get started. For example, a car can have rigid body wheels, but now you can just add on rubber tires made of DMM and get immediate simulated behavior without having to program all that.

Dave Hoff: For us this just extends the reason for developers to adopt Bullet Physics. We're already seeing more interest. The fact that Bullet is free and open source (Zlib license requires no code contribution back, so developers can play with it or mix and match without worry about having to reveal their secret sauce). We've also just announced a free version of Pixelux' DMM. It's free to develop with and to deploy games on the PC platform. This free version has all the features and performance of their premium version, but with a slightly reduced limit on the number of tetrahedrons that should still be enough for most games.

Dave Hoff: This free version is pretty cool since for most of its life, DMM was available exclusively to LucasArts and more recently developers probably assumed it was too expensive. So we expect to see a whole new class of games for the PC from independent developers up to bigger studios with realistic physics behavior leveraging the GPU.

Dave Hoff: My demo team (ala Ruby, Froblins, DX11-OIT/Mecha) has been playing with all this for just a few weeks and come up with some fun new demos. They've also just started playing with Trinigy's Vision Game Engine (also new to our team). Trinigy already has DX11 support (I met them at our Cypress launch as well) and had some prior support for DMM and Bullet. Trinigy's vForge editor and tools are very easy to use. This fits nicely with Maya plug-ins for our artists for DMM and Bullet. We've updated it all and made it even more straightforward. The demo takes our Mech character from the OIT demo and inserts him into a new city scene. Having used the Vision Engine, you can now control the Mech (Not just the camera). You can punch and shoot buildings and other object made of Bullet and DMM and cruise around the city.

Dave Hoff: We're just showing this to developers at GDC this week. In a few weeks we'll post the demo, but more importantly (I feel) we'll put up all the art assets and source code. Developers should be able to completely recreate what we've done in just a few days taking our code, tutorial, DMM and Bullet libraries and a standard binary evaluation copy of the Trinigy Vision Engine.

Dave Hoff: We're also showing some new library work we've done and are contributing to Bullet. We've implemented a new parallel version of SPH Fluids and will have a demo of that. This runs SPH in OpenCL all on the GPU at a really good speed. And we've implemented Bullet's soft body Cloth library in DX11 DirectCompute and have a nice demo showing a lot of cloth.

Dave Hoff: I know folks are asking "Where is it?". We're getting there. Without making excuses, I feel like we're on good track. My focus for now is on developers and getting them to adopt our technology. That will lead to games and apps. Things are going well. I'm happy with the progress, improved maturity and adoption of OpenCL. There are going to be a lot of cool apps coming out this year that will take nice advantage of GPU computing.

Dave Hoff: When I look back at the schedule from my time at nvidia - I was there to help launch the first production release of CUDA - it had no formal spec or standard conformance test, only ran on the basic G80 and ran on 32bit XP and Linux. It took a year to get even those first 2 beta apps into reviewers hands (Badaboom and Folding).

Dave Hoff: Whereas now we're just a few months into our production OpenCL release and it's gone through full Khronos compliance and includes not only Windows and Linux releases, but a very committed Apple customer, spans the 4- and 5-series as well as our CPU product. This is actually all good news. And I think we're seeing much faster adoption. The good news is also that any cuda app can easily move over. And as you'd expect, most are, particularly to be able to participate on ATI hardware. And I like that we actually can use bothDX11/DirectCompute and OpenCL: so when some code performs better with one, since it's on the same hardware, we can use that to get the other working better.

Dave Hoff: So I remain encouraged. I'd always like faster adoption, but I feel good about the pace and progress.

AMD Open Physics Initiative
AMD Open Physics Initiative

Good Stuff, Dave! Rage3D wishes we could be at GDC 2010 to see first hand the new demos and tools, and here about how Developers can leverage this to deliver improved products, as well as give consumers an open, common standard choice. It's slightly disappointing that there are limitations on the free DMM, but understandable given the licensing costs for publishing on the XBox360 and PS3, that the Premium edition affords, as well as support. Can't wait for the new Mecha demo!


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