New physics chip aims to shake up video games

A Silicon Valley start-up hopes to introduce a lot of bounce, rattle and roll into the video game industry with a new microchip that makes virtual worlds behave as realistically as they look.

For years, video games have been getting prettier thanks to increasingly sophisticated graphics processors.

But crates that don't budge, planks that don't splinter and windows that don't break are a constant complaint of gamers who crave more than just skin-deep realism.

Ageia Technologies Inc. wants to change that with its new PhysX processor, which simulates the physical properties of everything from smoke to rocks.

"What we are offering to the game industry is the ability to make physics and interactivity reach the same level of importance that graphics has," said Manju Hegde, AgeHia's chief executive.

"Physics makes games feel real the way graphics makes games look real," Hegde told Reuters in a recent interview.

Ageia faces a number of obstacles, however, from skeptical gamers grumbling at the prospect of opening their wallets for yet more hardware, to competitors that are putting physics in games using existing chips like a graphics processor.