It seems like it was just the other day that we were talking about AMD’s FEMFX, a new open-source middleware offering from AMD meant to enhance gameplay through deformable physics. Oh right, it was just the other day. Now, it’s the green team’s turn. Nvidia has announced PhysX 5.0, set to be available “soon in 2020,” complete with support for FEM simulation.
The headline feature in the 5.0 version of Nvidia’s open-source PhysX suite is the addition of the FEM (Finite Element Model) physics. Just like the FEMFX physics library, this technology simulates soft or non-rigid models how they interact with rigid ones. The PhysX 5.0 announcement video shows off the technology along with some other techniques also included in the update.
The video itself is pretty boring and the textures themselves lo-fi, but that makes it easier to spot the subtle physics of the chair fabric or the inflatable flamingo.
It’s interesting to see how different Nvidia’s approach is for this software, though. AMD showed off their physics effects with gunfire, disintegrating doors, and melting ducks; AMD specifically suggests that game developers might use FEMFX to create more interesting game puzzles. Nvidia, meanwhile, simply referred to FEM as an “industry standard” automotive and manufacturing technique. The accompanying video is a decidedly abstract affair.
PhysX 5.0 – Liquids and Fabrics
Along with the FEM physics, Nvidia PhysX 5.0 is adding support for two other new libraries. The constrained particle model will allow for new effects relating to things like cloth, rope, and inflatable shapes and how those deform and react. New liquid physics will make use of a Discrete Element Model and Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics to help simulate fluids and granular flow.
With so many PCs sporting the six-plus-core CPUs that help make these possible, and with the upcoming Xbox and PlayStation 5 sporting AMD’s latest chips, we could finally see the market penetration necessary to make these features popular in modern games. And as I noted the story about FEMFX, dynamic materials like these could also be where we see raytracing come into its own and outdo baked-in lighting.
If game developers can start using this stuff with the new consoles and new generations of graphics cards, the coming years could prove to be very exciting for gaming.