We already know Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 console will feature a custom AMD processor that combines Jaguar CPU cores with Radeon graphics. It seems likely the hardware will support physics effects like AMD's TressFX Hair, although perhaps not via the same DirectCompute API used to simulate Lara Croft's luscious locks in the Tomb Raider reboot. DirectCompute is, after all, a Microsoft API.
As it turns out, developers will have access to at least one third-party physics API on the PlayStation 4: Nvidia PhysX. The PhsyX SDK now offers PlayStation 4 support. So does the SDK associated with the firm's APEX engine, a "multi-platform, scalable dynamics framework" that has been used to power effects in Mafia 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum, among other games.
There's no word on whether any PlayStation 4 games will actually use PhysX, or whether the number crunching will happen on the PS4's GPU, but we shouldn't be surprised that the SDK supports the upcoming console. The PhysX SDK already supports the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and even the lowly Wii. Indeed, the games section of the PhysX developer site lists a handful of console titles that already use Nvidia's physics API. That collection is a little dated compared to the PhysX games listed on GeForce.com, although that site doesn't make a distinction between console and PC releases.
Having multiple physics options is nice, but I wish developers and hardware companies could all agree on a single, cross-platform API. Only when developers can assume that everyone has a base level of support can physics effects be used in ways that really affect gameplay. Until then, I fear we'll be stuck with effects that offer more accurately rendered eye candy but little else.